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CD: Crotchet
Download: Classicsonline

Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)  
Piano Quintet No. 1 in D minor (1887-1905/6) [30:59]
Piano Quintet No. 2 in C minor (1919-21) [32:17]
Cristina Ortiz (piano); Fine Arts Quartet
rec. Performing Arts Center, Purchase College, Theatre ‘C’, Purchase, New York, USA 20-22 December 2007
NAXOS 8.570938 [63:24] 
Experience Classicsonline

What entrancing music this is: elusive and enigmatic. It demonstrates how unjust is the relative neglect of Fauré’s chamber works.

For this attractive new Naxos recording the Fine Arts Quartet comprises: Ralph Evans and Efim Boico (violins), Yuri Gandelsman (viola) and Wolfgang Laufer (cello) with the pianistic talents of Cristina Ortiz. Evans, Boico and Laufer have been performing together for over 25 years. This team’s readings compare very well with that on the acclaimed Hyperion equivalent recorded back in 1995 with Domus (Susan Tomes (piano), Krysia Osostowicz (violin), Timothy Boulton (viola) and Richard Lester (cello)) with the additional talent of Anthony Marwood (violin). 

Fauré’s Piano Quintet No. 1 in D minor, Op. 89 occupied him intermittently over approaching twenty years as ideas occurred and as problems were solved. The opening movement begins with a beautiful, plaintive, long-breathed melody for the strings, developing over limpid, rippling piano figurations. The music moves on through more austere, wistful and passionate moods: Domus are quicker paced and intense at 10:25 while the Fine Arts’ reading is dreamier, more other-worldly and heartfelt. This movement includes a particularly beguiling melody at about 3:23 - on the Naxos recording. The gentle central Adagio movement is sweetly melancholic and introspective. Both the Naxos and Hyperion recordings clock in at 10:56. Both have beautiful little felicities of nuance, dynamics and shading.  The concluding Allegretto moderato is a lighter-veined divertissement – again, the two ensembles sharing the same timing of 7:22; the Domus team displaying a lighter-hearted attitude, the opening piano figures being more emphatically bell-like. 

Fauré’s devoted pupil, Charles Koechlin, commenting on the Second Piano Quintet, observed that it ‘was with pleasant surprise that people found such vigorous and youthful music in a veteran composer … Perhaps we see in this … the finest first movement of Gabriel Fauré.’ This opening movement certainly opens more vigorously yet there is that same elusive ambiguity, too, added to subtle rhythmic shifting between triple and quadruple time. The Fine Arts reading is nearly a minute slower than Domus who are more forceful yet quite charming. The Fine Arts’ reading is that much more intense. The second Allegro vivo movement is a light-hearted, quicksilver scherzo with rapid scale figures for the piano and a lilting waltz introduced by the strings. The Domus reading is technically dazzling and their waltz lilts beautifully but overall their reading does not quite appeal as much as that of the Fine Arts. The long Andante third movement has something of the melancholy of Fauré’s First Piano Quintet. It finds Domus lingering unusually longer at 10:57, as opposed to Fine Arts’ 10:16. Domus show a more deeply felt air of gentle resignation whereas the Fine Arts team opt for a more romantic, more upbeat, more optimistic view. The Allegro molto finale has a high-spirited outlook and it appears from Fauré’s letters that he enjoyed working on it. Here Domus regain their faster-paced spirit; their exuberance is countered by the Fine Arts artists who find a more autumnal quality. 

Two magical, enchanting chamber works in alluring performances by the Fine Arts Quartet and Cristina Ortiz. I would not want to be without the Hyperion Domus ensemble recording either, both are magical.

Ian Lace




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