£16 post free World-wide


555 sonatas 9Cds mp3 files
Only £22


Benjamin: Written on Skin £16

What's New
Previous CDs
Labels index

Every Day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor: Rob Barnett  
Founder Len Mullenger   


Brilliant Classics

Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Piano Quintets Nos: 1 in D minor Op. 89 (1906); 2 in C minor Op. 115 (1921)
Quintetto Fauré di Roma
Rec.: Oct 1985, Kirche Wohlen, Bern
Originally issued on Claves
Piano Quartets Nos: 1 in C minor Op. 15 (1879); 2 in G minor Op. 45 (1886)
Ames Quartet
Rec.: Feb 1990, Troy Savings Bank Musical Hall, Troy, NY
Originally issued on Dorian
La Bonne Chanson Op. 61 (1892-94)
Piano Trio in D minor Op. 120 (1923)
Sarah Walker (mezzo); Nash Ensemble
Rec.: 1980, Rosslyn Hill Chapel, Hampstead, London
Originally issued on CRD
Cello Sonatas Nos.: 1 in D minor Op. 109 (1917); 2 in G minor Op. 117 (1921)
String Quartet in E minor Op. 121 (1923)
Elégie for cello and piano Op. 24 (1880)
Thomas Igloi (cello); Clifford Benson (piano)
Amati Quartet
Wladislav Warenberg (cello); Sara Crombach (piano)
Rec.: 1975 Church of St George in the Martyr, Queen Square, London; 1 June 1990 Kirche Blumenstein, Bern; 10 Mar 1999, Hervormde Kerk Rhoon, Nederlands
Originally issued on CRD; Divox
Violin Sonatas Nos.: 1 in A major Op. 13 (1875); 2 in E minor Op. 108 (1917)
Krysia Osostowicz (violin); Susan Tomes (piano)
Rec. 25-26 Aug 1987
Originally issued on Hyperion
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 92337 [5CDs: 63:21 + 66:05 + 43:52 + 64:37 + 49:47]

This is a logical and artistically rewarding collection. At its heart are the substantial sonata-format chamber works of Fauré. These are fleshed out with La Bonne Chanson which if it needs claim to belong here is passported in through the presence of a chamber ensemble. There is also the little Elégie for cello and piano.

The Quintetto Fauré di Roma turn in fine performances of the two Piano Quintets. They are in touch with the bittersweet poignant serenity of this music as well as the harum-scarum rush of the allegro vivo of Op. 115. These are sympathetic performances recorded with a warm glow but with lucidity voice-definition. The only fly in the ointment is the vinegary edge taken on by the two violins in the finale of Op. 89. This disc is amongst the best representation of the quintets. If you want to sample try the songlike Allegro moderato of No. 1; its chiming lightheartedness is akin to the two piano writing in Saint-Saënsí Organ Symphony.

Not quite everything in the garden is lovely. The Ames quartet in the two Piano Quartets are energetic rather than joyous. This is Fauré played as tempestuous Beethoven rather than as serene ecstatic. The playing tends to be burly and lacks emotive finesse; not that there arenít fine moments along the way. However you could do better with the Hyperion, Erato or EMI Classics.

Sarah Walker is associated with a much-loved chanson tradition which I have always thought of as started by Janet Baker and continued by Felicity Lott. Her opulently auburn tones illumine Fauré's Verlaine cycle La Bonne Chanson. It is somehow the equivalent in music of fin-de-siècle ecstasy; all hooded eyes, eros and velvet. In the final song - possibly the most affecting of the nine - the access of excited melody points retrospectively to Franck.

The Piano Trio was premiered in Paris by the Thibaud-Casals-Cortot trio in June 1923. It was written at Argèles, the birthplace of Ravel. Marcia Crayford, Christopher Van Kempen and Ian Brown are the players. The play Fauré makes with joy and sorrow in nostalgia is wonderingly caught. An excellent example of the trio's success in tenderness can be heard in the lovely andantino (tr. 11) and the pealingly active 'conversation' of the finale (tr. 12). This fragile music blooms in the hands of these players.

Thomas Igloi who died young is an outstanding player. I wish that a company of the percipience of Cello Classics would run a series of his recordings drawn from the many BBC broadcasts he made. He was, with Amaryllis Fleming and Zara Nelsova my guide to the cello repertoire in the 1970s when I was discovering classical music. Igloi made the present recordings for CRD in 1975. His strength and subtlety make his playing an ideal complement to these two works. The First Sonata sings like a soul set free and Igloi's distinctively amber tones and sharkskin timbral quality suits the music to perfection. It comes as a shock that this was written in 1917. There is melancholy here but if there is tragedy it has seeped deep into the bones of the piece; it is not in the limelight. Four years later Fauré, by then in his late eighties, used a dignified and soulful Chant Funéraire he had written for military band as the centrepiece for his Op. 117 Second Cello Sonata. He flanked it with two vivacious allegros - the celebratory finale is especially sparkling.

The String Quartet is densely written and in its complexity reminded me of both early Schoenberg and of Bax's Second String Quartet. The whole has an archaic tang; a romanticised slant on the Bach orchestral suites. This work is warmly projected and recorded by the Amati.

The Elégie is a familiar and pleasing makeweight spun with warmth and with sustained control by Warenberg and Brombach.

The Osostowicz-Tomes sonatas are a well loved fixture of the Hyperion (now Helios) catalogue. The bright-eyed cantilena and Dvorakian playfulness of the First Sonata dates from his early days and contrasts with the irritable tense darkness of the Second Sonata which dates from 1916-17. The Second Sonata would pair neatly with contemporary British works such as the Dunhill (United and Cala) and Ireland Second Sonatas (Chandos and Hyperion).

I would confidently recommend this wallet to any collector launching out into Fauré territory. Even the Ames disc has its strengths and four out of the five are outstanding recordings and performances at any price.

Packaging is attractively competent. The set is in wallet format with five stiff card sleeves encased in a nicely solid box. Brilliant have done a superb job in choosing French Impressionist cover illustrations for the box and for each sleeve. The programme notes are pretty full as well perhaps having been licensed from the original releases. The words of the song cycle are not printed although the notes give an impression of the content of each poem.

You could hardly claim that the discs are packed to overflowing but the performance aesthetics are excellent and the price is stunningly inexpensive if you can find the set in the shops. Time was, in the UK, that you could find all sorts of Brilliant Classics sets at branches of Superdrug; no longer. Of course you can always order direct from Joan Records website or from Zweitausendeins in Germany.

Rob Barnett

Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.