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Treasures from the New World
Amy BEACH (1867-1944)
Piano Quintet in F sharp minor, Op.67 (1908) [29:21]
Romance for Violin and Piano, Op. 23 (1893) [6:32]
Henrique OSWALD (1852-1931)
Piano Quintet in C major, Op. 18 (1895) [26:52]
Marlos NOBRE (b. 1939) 
Poema XXI, Op. 94 No. 21 [3:54]
Clélia Iruzun (piano)
Coull Quartet
rec. 2019, Turner Sims, Southampton, UK
First recording (Nobre)
SOMM RECORDINGS SOMMCD0609 [66:46]

Composers who resided in the Americas are the focus of this new release. The Piano Quintets of Amy Beach and Henrique Oswald follow a distinguished tradition. It began with Robert Schumann and was notably added to by Brahms, Dvořák, Franck and Fauré, just to name but four. Although the two quintets here have not established a foothold in the repertoire in the same way, their unique voices, expressive style and melodic largesse make them worthy contenders. Amy Beach’s Quintet has had a few outings on the CD, and I've become quite familiar with it over the years, but Henrique Oswald, I have to admit, is a name I'm not familiar with.

Amy Beach’s Piano Quintet was premiered in 1909 to enthusiastic critical acclaim. Some critics pointed out the overwhelming power of the piano, with its potent octaves and Lisztian passagework, over the strings, especially in the opening movement. It is intensely rhapsodic, chromatically rich and passionate, with a muscularity one usually associates with Brahms. The slow movement, an absolute delight, has a luscious unforgettable melody of aching beauty. The breathtaking finale is a tour de force; it brings an underlying turbulence and constant forward momentum. Returning to the Quintet, I fully understand why it is Beach’s most frequently performed chamber work, and I would go as far as to say that it is a masterpiece. Iruzen and the Coull Quartet perform with passionate fervour. The Somm engineers have successfully managed the careful balancing act of establishing the perfect equipoise between piano and strings.

The Brazilian composer Henrique Oswald, of Swiss and Italian parentage, studied in Florence, where he remained for thirty years until his return to Brazil in 1902. In his compositions, he imbibed the French Romantics, earning the epithet “the Brazilian Fauré” from Arthur Rubinstein, no less. Although chiefly known for his short piano works, he ventured into other genres including orchestral, large-scaled choral and chamber works. His Piano Quintet dates from 1895, during his last years in Italy, but it had to wait until 1937, six years after his death, for publication. It is cast in four movements. The first has a Schumannesque feel in its confident and exuberant thrust, but it is not without its more lyrical moments. The ensemble is lithe and mercurial in the Scherzo. The slow movement, marked Molto adagio, is of soothing tenderness, but has its more dark and sombre moments, too. The finale is self-assured like the opener. Iruzun is spectacularly deft in the fine-spun piano lines.

Marlos Nobre, also Brazilian, writes music which sounds distinctly South American. For Poema XXI, the composer borrowed a melody from the slow movement of an earlier work, Concertante do Imaginário for piano and strings, Op. 74. The Poema cycle, Op. 94 treats the melody in various ways, subjecting it to different combinations of instruments. The melody itself is delightful and memorable, and works well in the particular combination heard here, providing an attractive morsel.

Roger Coull teams up with Clélia Iruzun in Amy Beach’s Romance for Violin and Piano. Penned in 1893, so a rather early work, it was dedicated to the violinist Maud Powell. It is a pleasing salon piece, enhanced by a captivating traversal.

Each of the works on the disc is given a thoughtful and sympathetic reading, and the sound quality is first-rate. So too are Gavin Dixon’s well-written annotations. For aficionados of lesser-known chamber music, this release will fit the bill just fine.

Stephen Greenbank 

 



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