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Elgar & Beach: Piano Quintets

Elgar & Beach: Piano Quintets
Elgar & Beach: Piano Quintets
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Amy Beach (1867–1944) came from the same generation that brought Edith Wharton and Willa Cather to the forefront in American arts. Her impact might have been as great as theirs had her career not been circumscribed by her marriage; even so, it was significant. The aiming points for Beach’s Piano Quintet in F Sharp Minor are Grieg, Dvorˇák, and, without a doubt, Brahms—all dead by the time the score was finished. But the idiom, with its heavy textures and evaporative harmony, is not that far removed from what Fauré and Schoenberg were doing at the same time in the sphere of chamber music. The content doesn’t always rise to the level of genius, but Beach’s treatment is masterful, and the work belongs in the repertory. It will never get a better performance than this. There are shades of Brahms in Elgar’s Piano Quintet in A Minor as well, especially in the piano figuration. The composer’s noble spirituality shines through in the Adagio, but by 1918 the strident optimism of the piece’s ending was anachronistic. Still, it receives a great ride here. Hyperion’s over-reverberant “house” sound is abetted by the venue, Wyastone Estate Concert Hall, the old Nimbus place. 

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