London Conchord Ensemble

“CD of the Week”

The Daily Telegraph.

London Conchord Ensemble’s latest CD release ‘St Petersburg’ is attracting critical acclaim. The recording brings together works by four composers at the forefront of St Petersburg’s musical life in four succeeding generations during a period when St Petersburg was the centre of Russian musical culture.

Jessica Duchen

Classic FM Magazine, July 2010

This ensemble reaches parts that other chamber groups do not, thanks to the instrumental variety represented in the pool of players. Drawing on the talents of some of London's best freelance and orchestral musicians, the group loves exploring the byways of the repertoire. In this intriguing disc it has summoned a caviar-feast of rarely heard music by composers based in St Petersburg, from Glinka – the founding father of a nationalistically Russian musical style – to the young Shostakovich, whose early piano trio draws on that tradition. Fine attentive performances all round: Balakirev's Octet is a special treat.

Stephen Pritchard

The Observer Reviews, Apr 2010

Four succeeding generations of St Petersburg's finest - Glinka, Balakirev, Glazunov and Shostakovich - are represented on this highly entertaining disc of chamber music, played with style and verve by the London Conchord Ensemble. Chief among the delights is Glazunov's string quintet in A minor, a gloriously carefree and sunny piece, written when he was 26. Dmitri Shostakovich was only 17 when he wrote his Trio No 1 in C minor, but it already has some of the hallmarks of the great man to come. (He was Glazunov's pupil and his father took huge risks supplying his alcoholic teacher with illicit vodka from state supplies.) The final track is a rare treat - the only surviving movement of Balakirev's Octet opus 3.

Geoffrey Norris

Saturday Telegraph 'Classical CD of the week', May 2010

Russian composers of the 19th century were in general much more active in realms of orchestral music than they were in writing for chamber ensemble. But this disc unearths some real rarities, which the Conchord Ensemble plays with an aplomb, sensibility and purposefulness that suggests a genuine enthusiasm rather than mere disinterment for the sake of being different.

The earliest piece, and by far the least Russian sounding, is Glinka's Trio pathétique of 1932. Glinka's taste at this time was for Italian opera, whose influence is clearly reflected in the trio's coloratura-like brio, dramatic gestures and smooth melodic lines. Balakirev's Octet for piano, flute, oboe, horn, violin, viola, cello and double bass, composed in the mid-1850's, adopts a similar stance, both in its theatrical opening and in the fact that the piano part displays the decorative bravura in vogue at the time. Unlike the Glinka, however, the melodic lines and the harmonic procedures have a distinct Russian accent. So, too, does Glazunov's String Quintet of the early 1890s, in which characteristics that became well-worn in his later music are deployed with considerable energy. Shostakovich's First Piano Trio of 1923 looks back to the elegiac trios of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, but also has key pointers to his mature style.

Robert Layton

International Record Review, June 2010

The great Russian composers of the nineteenth century were more drawn to the orchestra than they were to chamber forces. Colour was a primary concern and their mastery of it is incontrovertible. This valuable disc centres on real rarities, which will be unfamiliar even to connoisseurs in the field. The excellent London Conchord Ensemble puts us all in its debt in offering this repertoire. Let me say straight away that they all play with great intelligence and musicianship and are blessed with a natural recorded balance and vivid sound recording.

The earliest piece is Glinka's Trio pathétique of 1832 about which David Brown in his masterly biography (Glinka. A biographical and critical study; Oxford, 1974) is less than enthusiastic. Written at a time when he was under the spell of Italian opera, its ideas are unmemorable: as Professor Brown put it 'there is really no reason why we should remember it any more than Glinka's other Italian compositions'. It certainly appears in its best light in this lively and persuasive account.

Edward Garden is equally unenthusiastic about the Octet for piano, flute, oboe, horn, violin, viola, cello and double bass in his study of Balakirev (Faber, 1967), though he right approves the inventive quality of the piano writing (it was composed in the mid 1850s). The Glazunov String Quintet, written nearly four decades later, when its composer was in his early twenties, is a rarity on disc. It includes a second cello rather than viola, and has a sustained lightness of colour and sweetness of temperament. Its invention unfolds with great naturalness and generosity.

I had forgotten how rewarding Shostakovich's early Piano Trio, a student work, which precedes the First Symphony, is. It leaves you in no doubt that here is a composer of quality, even if the familiar personality is yet to emerge. Recommended with enthusiasm.

Four succeeding generations of St Petersburg's finest - Glinka, Balakirev, Glazunov and Shostakovich - are represented on this highly entertaining disc of chamber music, played with style and verve by the London Conchord Ensemble. Chief among the delights is Glazunov's string quintet in A minor, a gloriously carefree and sunny piece, written when he was 26. Dmitri Shostakovich was only 17 when he wrote his Trio No 1 in C minor, but it already has some of the hallmarks of the great man to come. (He was Glazunov's pupil and his father took huge risks supplying his alcoholic teacher with illicit vodka from state supplies.) The final track is a rare treat - the only surviving movement of Balakirev's Octet opus 3.


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