Levente Kende / Spiegel String Quartet

Vierne: Piano Quintet; String Quartet

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Vierne: Piano Quintet; String Quartet Review

by James Manheim

Almost unknown for years because of the general focus on Louis Vierne as an organ composer, the Piano Quintet in C minor, Op. 42, of this student of Franck and Widor has been unearthed and has received at least a couple of recordings. The work is superb. For those wondering, it does resemble Vierne's organ music. It is highly chromatic, densely contrapuntal, and often built around lines that are introduced with each instrument playing a note of a large chord in sequence for a very organ-like effect. Beyond this is a highly personal quality that marries an intimacy akin to that of Janácek's chamber music to the monumental style Vierne inherited. The stimulus for the work was the death of Vierne's son Jacques in World War I, at age 17 (both of his sons were killed in that conflict). "I will complete this work with an energy which is as ferocious and furious as my woe is terrible...I, the last to bear my name, I will bury him in a roar of thunder," wrote Vierne in a letter. The work's two tragic opening movements and its mighty finale, alternating fugal sections with scherzo-like blasts of anger, reflect these sentiments, and Germany's veteran Spiegel String Quartet, with Hungarian-Austrian pianist Levente Kende, catch them to the hilt. The String Quartet in D minor, Op. 12, that fills out the disc is a youthful work that's not quite on the same level, but every chamber music listener should hear the piano quintet. The recording is further enhanced by MDG's engineering, which uses a monastery farmhouse; it offers a large dynamic range that captures the profound gloom of the quintet's opening sections.

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