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Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Piano Quartet No.1 in C minor, Op.15 (1876-79; revised 1883) [29:00]
Piano Quartet No.2 in G minor, Op.45.(1884-86) [24:11]
Nocturne No. 4 in E flat Op. 36 (1884) [8:15]
Hermitage String Trio with Kathryn Stott (piano)
rec. April 2009, Potton Hall, Suffolk
CHANDOS CHAN10582 [71:49]

Experience Classicsonline

These are finely wrought and expressive performances of the two Piano Quartets. As is often gallingly the way, they’re issued very soon after those by the Trio Wanderer and Antoine Tamestit [Harmonia Mundi HMC902032], performances I’ve not been able to audition.

I find the Hermitage-Stott traversals admirable in their way though one might have quibbles here and there, always a fruitful business critically speaking. The recording quality is a good one, spacious, not clinical. The Hermitage Trio and Kathryn Stott, that most accomplished musician, start the C minor quite toughly. The tempo is finely judged, but the emphasis is on avoiding the fey or under-nourished. Curiously therefore their Scherzo is a degree under-characterised, though again it’s played with technical eloquence and a real degree of confidence. And there’s certainly a noble simplicity to the cello and piano statements in the slow movement, without doubt, though it’s not especially Gallic to my ears. Listen to the organ sonorities promoted by the august Pasquier Trio with Marguerite Long in their 1956 recording, and you will hear a different sound-world, and a different sense of colour, and suggestibility. Maybe too there is something a little over-nonchalant about the violin line. Stott leads the finale’s dance with verve and resilient rhythm, and they take it faster than their eminent Pasquier-Long elders.

We find this too in the opening movement of the companion G minor, where the Allegro is stressed somewhat at the expense of molto moderato. The latter injunction is adopted in the wartime recording made by Long with Jacques Thibaud, Maurice Vieux and Pierre Fournier. Compensation comes with the overt fieriness generated by the Hermitage-Stott pairing, who are once again determined not to sink into sloughs of prettiness. There’s sweep and largesse in the phrasing, though the rubati are nowhere near as natural as the French group’s absorption of the device, and this means that transitions can be just a touch lumpy. In contradistinction to their preference for bracing tempi elsewhere the slow movement is really very slow. I think it thereby misses the implicit nobility of the writing and the subtlety of the melancholia and its more quicksilver intimations. This to me is rather impersonal, straining at meaning, and imposing a stratum of heaviness instead.

As a corollary I would add that Stott’s playing of the Fourth Nocturne is illuminated by her lovely touch, but is again slow. Thyssens-Valentin (Testament) and Collard (EMI) offer rather more athletic solutions. Talking of the latter, his performance of the Quartets with two different sets of string colleagues on EMI is still persuasive. Domus’s performances however remain a central recommendation [Hyperion CDA66166].

Jonathan Woolf







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