Mendelssohn & the Schumanns, D'Erlanger & Dunhill, Napravnik and Brahms CD reviews



With classical concerts currently as scarce as good news this Somm live recording – a generous 83+ minutes – is an enjoyable substitute. Finely played and imaginatively programmed. Mendelssohn's D minor trio will surprise anyone thinking his music is merely cosy. The furious agitato opening movement and concluding assai appassionato don't sound like Queen Victoria's favourite composer. The players – David Adams (violin), Daniel Tong (piano) and Kate Gould (cello) – excel, even if the can't quite match the flair of the Fischer, Gilad, Müller-Schott recording (Pentatone). Wonder-woman Clara Schumann – concert pianist, mother-of-eight and husband Robert's emotional crutch – somehow found time to compose a delightful Piano Trio in G minor. No tempestuous emotion here – enough of that at home – it's sunny music, melodic and with a skilfully crafted piano part. Robert's F major second trio also catches him in a light mood with its lively extrovert opening and dreamy "with inward expression" second movement.

Norman Stinchcombe

D'ERLANGER & DUNHILL: Lane / Goldner Quartet ★★★

Baron Frédéric D'Erlanger, Parisian born but naturalized British, was a picturesque character in London's musical scene. Financing and promoting music – and having deep pockets as scion of a German banking family – helped get the compositions of "Baron Freddy" wide circulation. His violin concerto was played by Kreisler and an opera on Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles (in Italian!) was staged. He was a skilful, if flashy, pianist as his Piano Quintet (1902) shows – the scherzo is particularly sharp and witty. It's a well-crafted piece of Brahmsian late romanticism, with a soupçon of Gallic charm. If only it were as colourful as the man himself. The playing of Piers Lane and the Goldner Quartet is first rate. Thomas Dunhill was a student of Stanford at the Royal College of Music and his Piano Quintet in C minor (1904), like his master's music, is well-shaped, formally correct but rather dull and vapid.

Norman Stinchcombe

EDUARD NÁPRAVNIK: Trotovšek / Angelov ★★★★

Nápravnik was born in Bohemia in 1839 but moved to Russia in his early 20s. He composed four operas, four symphonies, and much else. But it was as chief conductor of the Mariinsky Opera that he was renowned. Toccata Classics are exploring his chamber music and Volume 1 of their series begins with works performed by Lana Trotovšek (violin) and Ludmil Angelov (piano). Tchaikovsky admired Nápravnik's style and it's clear the feeling was mutual. The four-movement 35 minute Violin Sonata in G major sounds authentically Russian, tuneful and passionate. Trotovšek's warm, lyrical style is perfect for the heart-on-sleeve Andantino doloroso, while she an Angelov really let rip in the boisterous con fuoco finale. The Suite for Violin and Piano Op.60 is equally enjoyable, with a fiery Tarantella. The Four Pieces Op.64 are lightweight and colourful, with a Spanish scherzo and an idiomatic Russian melody. A top value 86 minute disc.

Norman Stinchcombe

BRAHMS CELLO SONATAS : Müller-Schott / Piemontesi ★★★★

Twenty years separate Brahms' two Cello Sonatas, the E minor op.38 and F major op.99. The first is the young composer's attempt to place his music in the great Austrian-German tradition. There are fleeting glimpses of Mozart, Beethoven and perhaps Schubert, in the charming minuet second movement. But Bach is openly acknowledged in the finale which is indebted to the master's The Art of Fugue. Daniel Müller-Schott (cello) and Francesco Piemontesi (piano) play incisively with warm, full but not over-ripe tone and both adhere to Brahms's stricture that the pianist is no mere accompanist but "a watchful and considerate partner". Their virtues are also evident in the Op.99 – Piemontesi's tremolo is the opening movement and Müller-Schott's crisply articulated pizzicato in the lyrical Adagio affettuoso. A very adept transcription of the Violin Sonata no.1 in G major makes for an engaging supplement. My only reservation is the slightly constricted recording quality.

Norman Stinchcombe

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