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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Quartet No.1 in G minor, K.478 (1785) [24:54]
Piano Quartet No.2 in E flat K. 493 (1785) [27:36]
Fauré Piano Quartet: (Erika Geldsetzer (violin); Sascha Frombling (viola); Konstantin Heidrich (cello); Dirk Mommertz (piano))
rec. Teldec Studio, June/July 2005
DECCA 477 588-5 [52:30]

 

The 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!

These 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.

In 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.

The 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.

Both 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!

Perhaps 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!

In 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

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