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Schumann’s landmark 1842 Piano Quintet infuses old Classical devices with radiant new brilliance, inviting into the drawing- room symphony and orchestra, soloist and quartet, the intimate and the discursively suggestive. Re-inventing scales into art, the E-flat aura of this music is imbued with Rhenish warmth and Viennese majesty. The Quartet, completed weeks later, beguiles with a double-trio scherzo that’s a minor miracle, and a slow movement redolent of Schubert at dusk – an elusive fusion of song, dance and conversations in corners. Given Schumann’s seasonally fluctuating states of mind, both works were to prove something of an emotional, mental release for him – the Quartet growing out of ‘melancholy’ and ‘dreadful, sleepless nights’, the Quintet out a ‘bad hangover’.

Calmly authoritative, a sobering intellect, Nils Anders Mortensen rises to the challenge of this music, combining drama, momentum and climactic elation with soulful poetry and moments of skittish humour free of artifice. His ear for detail, clarity and open textures is matched by the recording team and Engegård Quartet – seasoned players who, offsetting their leader’s occasional impetuousness of attack, project a beguiling mix of ardour and amour. Nice to see pre-war Tovey (1900 in fact, all too forgotten these days) get a mention in the booklet notes.

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