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Sandro BLUMENTHAL (1874–1919)
Piano Quintet in D major Op. 2 [30:01]
Four Lieder (Non pensare a me! (Romanza), M’incontri per la strada..., Ah non languir ! ..., Erntelied) [11:45]
Piano Quintet in G major Op. 4 [29:03]
Sophie Klußmann (soprano), Oliver Triendl (piano), Daniel Giglberger (violin 1), Hélène Maréchaux (violin 2), Corina Golomoz (viola), Bridget MacRae (cello)
rec. 2015, Munich
TYXART TXA16079 [70:51]

This is a venture shared between BR Klassik - Bavarian Radio, TYXart and the Joachim Wollenweber Edition. The latter bring succour to the music of forgotten composers from the baroque to more modern times. It is not a one-off either. This is the eighth CD in the series. The others include Goetz's Piano Quartet and Quintet (TXA15061); Fuchs's chamber music (TXA15066 and 16078); Draeseke's Horn Quintet (TXA16077) and Philipp Scharwenka's works for violin and piano. Oliver Triendl is the pianist in all these discs.

The rather short-lived Venetian composer Sandro Blumenthal now has his moment in the bright sunlight, courtesy of these six musicians. The only name among the six that rang any sort of bell with me was that of Oliver Triendl. He has stood as a deeply sympathetic champion pianist for many neglected composers, thanks to CPO and Genuin. As for TYXart, this label has lodged with me as a licensee of Soviet and Russian recordings.

Blumenthal set out in life as a composer of serious music and then moved with success to become a cabaret singer. He wrote many serious lieder and never quite gave up on the world of serious classical music. This disc looks at two four-movement piano quintets. The Op. 2 work yearns generously away with a romantic spirit rooted in Schumann. In the first movement it is pearly, decorous and sweetly melodic, with a dash of urgency but much more in the way of peaceable self-possessed confidence. The following Adagio espressivo is a languid step away from the preceding Allegro moderato where the operative word is Moderato. The Espressivo element is achieved through the nonchalant piling high of succulent melodic content. The Scherzo prestissimo flickers along delightfully. If the previous two movements are close brethren to Chopin and Schumann here the family feeling is for Beethoven at his most mobile and fantastic. The finale starts amid quasi-Slavonic depths and accelerates with a sun-soaked emotional energy that is trippingly attractive and skittishly surging.

The lieder, as sung with flaming engagement by Sophie Klußmann, are intensely romantic. Take the Romanza, Non pensare a me where Blumenthal flexes his muscles in grandest eruptive style. They all come across as dry-runs for a quite Italianate operatic cauldron. No holds are barred. Makes you wonder about the composer's opera Sulamith. It was given its premiere in Nuremberg and was fêted for a brief while.

The Quintet Op. 4, like the Op. 2 example, was written during Blumenthal's years as a Rheinberger pupil in Munich in the late 1890s. The first movement makes an emphatic and passionate statement. Again it is more Schumann than Brahms, but this time clearly designed to make a big impression. This steps away from the languor that arches over the Op. 2 work but the melodic gifts still flow lavishly, guided by a decisive mind and driven by a forward-pulsing flow. The heart-warming Andante cantabile gently chimes in contrast with the scherzo alluring marked Velocissimo. Its life-enhancing velocity and pulse-quickening ideas bow out, after a pensive episode, in favour of a cantering and at times utterly beguiling finale: Mendelssohnian smiles on legs. Delightful as the Op. 2 work is in its unassertive way the Op. 4 is a stronger proposition. It puts down deeper roots and has the power to lure the listener back.

The liner notes by Judith Kemp are in German and English. I am not sure that much is gained by describing the music in so much close detail, but some sustaining and much needed detail is given about Blumenthal's life. The words of the lieder are not reproduced.

A Venetian unknown rooted in the nineteenth century is given a second chance, and well worth it too. Blumenthal could not be better served than by these ardently expressive musicians and by TYXart's technical team who deliver a broad, deep and believable sound spectrum.

Rob Barnett



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