Classical CD Reviews
SHOSTAKOVICH: Piano Quintet in G Minor, Op. 57; FAURE: Piano Quintet No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 89 – James Dick, piano/ Eusia String Quartet – Round Top Records
Published on October 16, 2006
Several summers ago I was fortunate to be invited to the Texas-based Round Top Festival; James Dick, music director. Besides meeting James Dick, who has assumed the mantle once worn by Eugene List in American music-making, I had the pleasure of hearing in concert and in master class the late violin virtuoso Erick Friedman, who shared many a delightful tale of Jascha Heifetz. The Festival’s own label has issued two performances with James Dick and the Kyoto chamber ensemble (estab. 2000): Eusia Quartet of Shostakovich (11-12 March 2005) and Faure (6-7 April 2005). Produced and annotated by Alain G. Declert, the two quintets are elegantly rendered and balanced, especially conveying both works’ often misty, autumnal hazes–as in the Shostakovich Intermezzo– that mark their tonal and harmonic syntax.
Repeated hearings of Shostakovich’s 1940 Piano Quintet only confirm the many debts he owes J.S. Bach, an influence Shostakovich would extend into his Op. 87 Preludes and Fugues. The Quintet’s partita structure incorporates elements from folk and jazz rhythms as well; but the Fugue compels most of our admiration, with its echoes of Bach’s great C Minor organ fugue. James Dick and the Eusia take an introspective approach to the first two movements, opening up only at the Scherzo, a chugging, folksy gigue with hints of Chabrier. First violin Kazuhiro Takagi makes points here (and in the lovely Intermezzo) with sizzling riffs that the piano soon hurls back and forth. The finale allows the principals to indulge in alternately moody and irreverent bravura, one of the themes having been derived from a circus troupe. The dynamic range increases along with the martial bluster, but all within restraints pianist Dick and the Eusia impose on their finely etched interpretation.
Faure’s 1906 Piano Quintet No. 1 occupies, in the first movement, a liquid medium, darkly chromatic with hints of Wagner harmony. The string coloration is valedictory, the hues emanating from the cello and viola. The work’s real interest lies in its metrics, a shifting world of syncopations and blended colors. More rarified introspection in the Adagio, whose timbres hint at Brahms. Takagi’s first violin sings in duet with the piano while the other strings create a responsory. Much like Debussy, Faure sacrifices everything to expressivity. The final movement, Allegretto moderato, assumes a relentless, albeit gentle, impetus, which only sporadically allows some light into the otherwise shadowy landscapes or water pools likewise favored by Faure’s acolyte, Charles Martin Loeffler. The piano insinuates rather than asserts, a seductive performance of a quietly ravishing work.
– Gary Lemco