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Frédéric d’ERLANGER (1868-1943)
Piano Quintet (1901) [37:49]
Thomas DUNHILL (1877-1946)
Piano Quintet in C minor, Op.20 (1904) [35:25]
Goldner String Quartet
Piers Lane (piano)
rec. 2019, Potton Hall, Dunwich, UK
HYPERION CDA68296 [73:14]

D’Erlanger’s Violin Concerto, premiered by Kreisler, featured in volume 10 of Hyperion’s Romantic Violin series where it was coupled with the concerto by Frederic Cliffe. Here is a chamber brace which sets two piano quintets side-by-side, both works composed in the opening decade of the twentieth century. This time d’Erlanger’s work takes its place alongside that of the better-known Thomas Dunhill and whilst Hyperion doesn’t make a fetish of such things, I can’t trace a previous commercial recording of either work.

D’Erlanger’s quintet is a big-hearted four-movement piece that will appeal to those fond of a Brahms-Dvořák axis. Predicated on generous warmth, at times effusive but always finely controlled by structural dictates, its melodies are welcomingly clear-cut. High Romanticism flourishes in the outer movements and the first movement in particular, where the writing is stirring and robust. With one sweetly succulent episode just before the close. In the Andante ripe lyricism seems to evoke, maybe accidentally, and briefly, Vltava in the piano’s ripple, which is later taken up by the strings but there is in addition a rewarding Edwardian sweep to d’Erlanger’s writing, a rich confidence. By comparison there’s caprice in the Scherzo, full of energy and life. This finely prefaces a confidently handled finale, almost as long as the opening movement but showing similar powers of construction and marshalling of material.

D’Erlanger was around 33 when he composed his Quintet, Dunhill about 27. But the younger man had been involved in producing a series of chamber music, often influenced by the contemporaneous Cobbett competition and its requirement for single-movement forms. Chamber music remained a powerful element of Dunhill’s oeuvre. His Piano Quintet is a formally attractive work that offers good opportunities for the inner parts to play out. It’s a much less passionate piece than d’Erlanger’s, majoring instead in elegance and refinement. Perhaps its most notable movement is the second, a Scherzo in which a quality of exaltation – of joy- is enshrined amidst writing of rhythmically vivid energy. The slow movement is quietly solemn, and in effect is a theme and variations. The finale’s amiability best reflects the ‘lighter’ elements of Dunhill’s writing and there’s just the slightest hint of the antimacassar and palm court about some of the paragraphs. Otherwise the writing is lively.

The Goldner String Quartet and Piers Lane have themselves formed a lively collaborative ensemble, as reflected in their discs. The recording has been splendidly balanced and all concerned respond to the music with technical and expressive surety. Lewis Foreman is on cracking form in his notes. If the bluffer elements of the d’Erlanger make the bigger impression it’s because, in my own view, it’s the more attractive work but the coupling remains a thoughtful and canny juxtaposition.

Jonathan Woolf

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