Elgar String Quartet Op 83. Piano Quintet Op 84
No beating about the bush: the Goldners give the most sublimely articulate and raptly communicative reading of Elgar’s elusive String Quartet that it’s been my privilege to encounter. It’s not just their fabulous technical address and scrupulous adherence to the text that are so impressive (all achieved, I should add, without a whiff of self-conscious display), but the recreative ardour, tumbling fantasy and sinewy strength they bring to this marvellous score make it seem as though the ink is barely dry on the manuscript, as well as making you appreciate afresh the supreme mastery of the composer’s part-writing. Certainly, it’s hard to conceive the fragrant Piacevole centrepiece enjoying more pliable or wistfully poetic treatment than here.
The performance of the epic Piano Quintet evinces a comparable generosity of spirit, very real sense of teamwork and flawless discipline. Piers Lane’s own earlier account with the youthful Vellinger Quartet (CfP, 9/95R) remains a notable achievement but this thrillingly dedicated new version conveys even more of the music’s far-flung ambition, subtle motivic interplay, arresting drama and spooky undertow (Elgar’s imagination had been sparked by a colourful local myth that a clump of dead trees near his West Sussex cottage were the twisted forms of Spanish monks struck by lightning while engaging in pagan rites).
Sandwiched between the two main offerings come four piano miniatures, the haunting, dream-like waltz Mina from 1932‑33 (named after Elgar’s pet Cairn Terrier) being the pick of the bunch.
Ben Connellan’s Potton Hall sound and balance are beyond reproach; Diana McVeagh contributes a scholarly and highly illuminating booklet essay. This is, quite simply, a superlative CD.