Fauré Quartet is new to me. The sleeve has a recommendation
from Martha Argerich and they are described in the blurb as
a “phenomenal young German ensemble”. They are indeed very good
in these works but not I think phenomenal. The sleeve would
also suggest one or two members once enjoyed a previous career
as catalogue models!
works for piano and string trio were written around the same
time and were not originally great successes. In 1785 most audiences
wanted pretty, melodic music. Things have not changed much today.
As the notes point out these chamber works are not very popular
though I am surprised to read the phrase “seldom heard”. There
have been a few very good performances on record in particular
I suggest the groundbreaking and superb Curzon and Amadeus quartet
on Decca's 1952 LP and an earlier performance of K478 by Schnabel
and the Pro Arte Quartet on a now deleted EMI Références CD:
dated sound but magical playing.
the first piece I was slightly put off by the stringent tone
of the piano but things soon settle down and the performance
is a very good one. The slow movement is lovely as is the inventive
finale. The quartet respond well to the finale’s demands albeit
with what I sometimes felt was a lack of charm.
quartet seems to be more at ease with the second piece. There
are traces of the fire present in some of Mozart’s operas and
the melody in the first movement is delightful. I enjoyed these
performances greatly and love the way the tune is passed from
the piano to the other three instruments. The slow movement
is a gem; quite marvellous playing.
movements are built around clearly contrasting tonalities but,
as ever with Mozart, amid the beautiful soothing melodies is
an underlying dark side. The finale is again played with real
aplomb. I defy you not to hum along!
for your consideration is that here is a full priced disc lasting
just over 50 minutes. As well as the aforementioned historical
recordings there are budget versions in sets by the Beaux Arts
and also the Eder with Dezso Ranki (piano) in the Warner Chamber
set (Warner Classics 2564 62335-2 - see review).
Comparing the latter with the Fauré Quartet, it seems pretty
clear which offers the better value for money!
summary, the Fauré Quartet presents one good and one very good
performance of these amazingly fine works. They are indeed among
the best of the present day recordings but overall not quite
at the very top of the tree.
David R Dunsmore