Dvořák: Piano Quintets Opp 5 & 81

Dvořák: Piano Quintets Opp 5 & 81

Goldner String Quartet, Piers Lane (piano)


The performing team of Piers Lane and the Goldner String Quartet has won many plaudits for their enlightening interpretations of the obscurer piano quintet repertoire. Now they turn to a composer who triumphed in the genre. Dvořák’s two piano quintets were written at different stages of the composer’s career: the first during a period of poverty and uncertainty, the second when the composer was approaching the zenith of his international fame.

The two quintets make a fascinating pairing here. Dvořák originally tore up his manuscript of the first; luckily the pianist at the premiere kept a copy. It is clearly a youthful work, showing something of the discursiveness of the early string quartets, a point noted by a critic at the premiere, but there is no doubting the confidence with which Dvořák handles the combination of piano and strings (doubly impressive since he did not possess a piano at this time), which in many places anticipates the instrumentation in the famous second piano quintet.

Dvořák’s second Piano Quintet was an immediate popular success at its first performance and has remained one of the best-loved examples of the genre. The premiere was given by four of the finest Czech string players of the day and the promising conductor and composer Karel Kovarovic at the piano. The celebrated ‘Dumka’ movement, the lyrical heart of the work, demonstrates the extraordinary command of melody that characterizes the composer’s symphonies.

Performances of technical polish and expressive power, sensitively recorded, combine to make this a chamber disc to treasure.

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