Pianist Javier Perianes and the Cuarteto Quiroga capture the exuberance of Enrique Granados’s Piano Quintet in G minor op. 49 with a fertile combination of spirit, warmth, and subtlety. Written when the composer was just in his late 20s (notwithstanding the relatively high catalogue number), its three movements clock in at just a quarter of an hour in total, but their graceful contrasts and folky melodies show why he was dubbed by some, as the program notes relate, “the ‘Spanish Grieg’, and why his contribution to music was swiftly acknowledged by the award of the Cross of Carlos III [Spain’s highest civil award] in 1898.”
The electric energy of the first movement, the sweetness of the second, and the alternating gallop and stately walk of the finale all feel very organic and very Spanish, the complexity of their harmonics cloaked in warm emotion. Perianes and the Cuarteto Quiroga have often collaborated in the past and their kinship is evident in the well-knitted flow of their collective performance.
If that quintet marked the beginning of the Catalan Grandos’s artistic maturity, the Andalusian composer Joaquín Turina felt just that way about his own Piano Quintet in the same key, pointedly labeling this first published composition his “Opus 1” for its debut in 1907 when the composer was just 24. A more ambitious work than the Granados quintet, it bears the influence of César Franck and is thus less patently “Spanish,” but the musicians play it with plenty of spice and flair.
Yet they are as tastefully virtuosic and tonally well-balanced in the fiery second movement (“Animé”) as in the ruminative “Andante” section of the third movement or, for that matter, the quiet, relatively simple second movement of the Granados – a movement I keep going back to, wanting to experience its gently swirling beauty again.
Speaking of fiery second movements, the recording itself has a pleasantly warm quality, without the sometimes too-shiny brightness of digitally recorded chamber music. This “human” feeling is equally pleasing in spots like the “Scherzo” section of the third movement, where piano and strings move together like the limbs of a single animal, as in lighter passages, like some of the fast sections of the Finale, where each instrument sparkles distinctly.
The album closes with the ninth and final piece in Turina’s Las musas de Andalucía op. 93. Dedicated to Calliope, the Muse of epic poetry and eloquence, it features slinky, Russian-sounding piano chords alternating with filigrees of strings. Despite its piano-quintet scoring, it surely sits better in its own suite than as an appendix to the Piano Quintet in G minor.
If nothing else, though, it does make me want to go and listen to all those Andalusian muses.
If you’re not familiar with these early modern Spanish composers, this sensitively played album is a fine place to start.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B011VX0O4G]