Polish piano quintets that deserve more play

Two of music's greatest piano quintets are the sole examples by Johannes Brahms and Cesar Franck, both of which play for about 40 minutes.

Casting the net wider for quintets of this stature, one will eventually stumble upon these virtually unknown and unjustly neglected works by the Poles Ludomir Rozycki (1883-1953) and Ignaz Friedman (1882-1948).

Both piano quintets are in three movements and cast in C minor, the key of unbridled pathos and unrelieved angst.

The Rozycki (1913) typifies the late Romantic era, with broad melodies not dissimilar to those of Brahms, Faure and Richard Strauss, but tinged with the Slavic melancholy of Tchaikovsky and the young Rachmaninov.



      Piano Quintets

      Jonathan Plowright, piano with Szymanowski Quartet

      Hyperion 68124

      5/5 stars

The slow movement is itself a portrait of gloom, dispelled only by a finale of animation and levity. The Friedman (1918) is slightly shorter and has a veneer of Viennese charm over and above a bedrock of pensiveness and rumination.

Are these undiscovered masterpieces? British pianist Jonathan Plowright and the Polish Szymanowski Quartet perform with passion and authority, lifting these beyond salon superficialities and obscurity into the realm of established true classics.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2016, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe