Goldner String Quartet / Piers Lane

Bartók, Korngold: Piano Quintets

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The pairing of Bartók and Erich Wolfgang Korngold may seem an odd one; after all, according to received taste, Bartók was a major figure of modern music, while Korngold was a minor master recognized mostly for Hollywood film scores. However, these two youthful works, each in a Romantic vein but each anticipating later developments, go together wonderfully (and anyway, it's becoming clear that that the "conservatives" and "progressives" of the 20th century actually had much in common). The Bartók Piano Quintet in C major, Sz 23, was lost until 1963 and is rarely heard. It reflected various trends of the late Romantic era, with a nifty superimposition of the standard four-movement structure onto the cyclical form. The Adagio slow movement is a characteristic Bartók nocturne, and in the finale, a czardas with a delightfully manipulated focus on a minor half-step, you can hear the mature composer peeking around the corner. Though these are both youthful works, written by composers in their early 20s, they also make an intriguing spring-autumn pair. The Piano Quintet in E major, Op. 15, of Korngold, is a delicate work that seems to evoke the vanished Viennese empire. It is also not hard to imagine the Hollywood Korngold in this evocative little piece. The Goldner String Quartet, with Piers Lane on piano, is technically unimpeachable and catches the rather subtle emotional flavors of these works: the youthfully passionate and ambitious Bartók and the quietly nostalgic Korngold. With superb Potton Hall sound, this is a chamber album whose appeal should extend well beyond aficionados of music from the early 20th century.

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