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