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Friedrich Gernsheim Piano Quintets 1 & 2

Piano Quintet No. 1 in D minor, Op. 35 (1875–76)
Piano Quintet No. 2 in B minor, Op. 63 (1896)

Art Vio String Quartet

Ingrida Rupaitė, violin
Kristijonas Venslovas, violin
Tomas Petrikis, viola
Povilas Jacunskas, cello
Edouard Oganessian, piano

Toccata Classics TOCC 0099 (first recordings)

This is one of the most exciting of the unknowns had from Toccata. Yes, their claim that these are two masterpieces is not just promoters' hype, they really are excellent and come across as such in these first spirited recordings, from Lithuania.

I looked up Gernsheim in my copy of The Piano in Chamber Music but he is not in the twenty pages of piano quintets, nor elsewhere. And not even mentioned in the second edition of this massive tome...

Piano quintets established in the repertoire are few, and problematical. The Brahms had a difficult and prolonged gestation until it found its final form and remains far from easy to bring off; Dvorak's is established in popularity, Fauré's two with connoisseurs.

The first is clearly Brahms influenced, but not overwhelmingly so. The second sugests he'd known Strauss and looks towards Reger [Malcolm MacDonald] but both stand on their own securely and would grace any chamber music recital - but probably lose ticket sales?

The answer surely (a CD cannot achieve a revolution on its own) is for chamber music departments in the conservatories and colleges to instil a much more exploratory outlook amongst their students.

And probably Wigmore Hall, which boasts remarkable audience loyalty, could risk inviting the Art Vios with their pianist for a weekend, with an evening concert and a lunchtime one, one of these quintets in each; they'd probably attract the jaded critics too?

Meanwhile, check out the Toccata Classics CD and, surely, enjoy it.

Peter Grahame Woolf