Gabriel Fauré was the youngest child in a family of six, the son
of a school administrator and teacher with aristocratic connections.
Encouraged as a child to pursue his musical interests, he was
fortunate enough to study with Camille Saint-Saëns, with whom
he maintained a close relationship until the elder composer’s
death in 1921. Fauré would begin his career as a teacher and organist
in smaller parishes, all the while composing songs. Ever self-critical,
particularly where larger musical forms were concerned, it would
be a few years into his career before he established himself as
a major composer and pedagogue. Eventually his career would take
him to the organ benches of several major Paris churches and to
the directorship of the Paris Conservatoire, where his pupils
would include the likes of Koechlin, Ravel and Nadia Boulanger
to name but some of the stars.
Unlike many composers,
Fauré seemed to have lived a charmed life, free from much
of the poverty and personal stress that faced many of his
predecessors and colleagues. He held steady jobs in worthwhile
institutions throughout his career, was happily married and
raised two sons. He lived to see his work internationally
respected and left a legacy in the hands of several renowned
composers that were his pupils. Consequently, his music reflects
the serenity of his life. Although it never lacks passion,
it seldom contains much angst, and as such has a soothing
quality about it that makes most any work from his pen immediately
Fauré was a bridge figure between the romantics and the more
modernist composers that were to be both his contemporaries
and successors. Although often subtly adventuresome, his harmonic
vocabulary never strays far afield and yet has a certain individuality
that makes it both instantly appealing and rather difficult
to play, given its tendency to turn right when you expect
left, as it were.
These two major
works of chamber music are nothing short of masterpieces,
and show the care and time that Fauré took in composing them.
At times dreamy, as in the opening movement of Op. 89 with
its delicious d minor piano arpeggios, at others luminescent
as in the gorgeous Andante of Op. 115. This is music that
is indeed melodic, but not necessarily tuneful. In other words,
a listener will get up having had a beautiful experience but
perhaps not whistling any themes.
and the Fine Arts Quartet are very welcome additions to endless
supply of fine artists from Naxos, giving us performances
that are marked by understated virtuosity, subtle shadings
of color and finely honed ensemble playing. The strings perform
with a shimmering uniformity of tone and the balance between
the keyboard and strings is never off. Ms. Ortiz has had a
distinguished career as a soloist, her early concerto recordings
of Villa-Lobos and Shostakovich garnering her many rave reviews.
Here as a chamber musician, she proves herself to be similarly
superior, playing with verve and panache, and as a complete
partner in the music making.
This is music
of immeasurable elegance. Yes, there are technical challenges
to be met, but this ensemble plays with such refined finesse
that the only thing that comes across is beauty. These are
performances in which a listener can simply luxuriate, thoroughly
enjoying the wash of sound that comes out of the speakers.
Let’s hope that these artists come together again soon. Perhaps
some Brahms and Schumann? Shostakovich maybe? The possibilities
are exciting just to think about!
see also Review
by Ian Lace September RECORDING
OF THE MONTH