Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Complete Chamber Music for Strings
see end of review for track listing
Morceau de lecture for Two Cellos
Renaud Capuçon (violin); Gautier Capuçon (cello); Gérard Caussé (viola); Nicholas Angelich (piano); Quatuor Ébène (Pierre Colombet (violin); Gabriel Le Magadure (violin); Mathieu Herzog (viola); Raphaël Merlin (cello))
rec. various dates, various locations
VIRGIN CLASSICS 0708752 [5 CDs: 312:00]

I’ve been sitting on this set for several weeks, listening to bits and pieces, and not listening to a lot of it. One often develops a first impression about a recording and it’s hard to shake, and in this case, that impression is so negative that I’ve been trying to find a way to get over it. But I can’t; my first impression of this set is stuck in my mind, and has been confirmed by repeated listenings. I’ve heard better sound on bootleg audience recordings; yet this is a professionally recorded set released by a major label.

The problem here is the sound. While some recordings don’t sound great, most don’t sound as bad as this set. From the very first track, with a scratchy violin that sounds like it’s inches from a microphone and a distant piano that sounds like it was recorded from an AM radio speaker, nearly everything in the recording of this set annoys enough that I simply don’t want to listen to this music.

Moving on to the second disc, and listening to the Sonata No. 1 for cello and piano, the sound is similar. The cello has a buzzing sound, and the piano is way off in on outbuilding somewhere near the studio, being piped in by operaphone. The Piano Trio that opens disc 3 sounds a little better, if you don’t care about hearing the piano. But the combination of the violin and cello is simply painful to listen to. However, the one work that was recorded at a different location - and that comes from a previously released album - is the String Quartet, Op. 121 (part of this fine disc reviewed on MusicWeb International in 2008). The sound here, as well as the performance is excellent.

The quartets and quintets for piano and strings suffer from the same execrable sound, rounding out this 5-disc set that could have been a benchmark recording. Because, after all, if you can get through the bad sound, the performances are quite good, but the sound is so muddy that it’s very hard to appreciate them.

I don’t usually read other reviews before writing my own, but in this case I did. And what I found confirmed my feelings. A number of reviewers have confirmed my feelings that the sound is terrible for all but the string quartet. In some ways, it’s unfair to be so negative about a recording as I am in this review, because of the sound. But in many ways, it’s unfair to the artists to record them in this manner and release a set that sounds so bad.

Kirk McElhearn
Kirk McElhearn writes about more than just music on his blog Kirkville (

Complete Tracklist
CD 1 [67:05]
Sonate No. 1 Op. 13 in A major
1 I. Allegro molto 10:03
2 II. Andante 7:43
3 III. Allegro vivo 4:21
4 IV. Allegro quasi presto 5:54
5 Berceuse, Op. 16 3:39
6 Romance Op. 28 5:32
7 Andante Op. 75 4:11
8 Morceau de Lecture 1:38
Sonata for Cello and Piano No.2 in E Minor Op. 108
9 I. Allegro non troppo 9:10
10 II. Andante 8:03
11 III. Allegro non troppo 6:46
CD 2 [62:52]
Sonate Op. 109
1 I. Allegro 5:48
2 II. Andante 7:51
3 III. Final: Allegro commodo 7:02
4 Élégie Op. 24 6:42
5 Pièce pour Violoncelle (Papillon) Op. 77 2:55
6 Romance Op. 69 4:16
7 Sérénade Op. 98 3:06
8 Sicilienne Op. 78 3:52
Deuxième Sonate Op. 117
9 I. Allegro 7:12
10 II. Andante 8:41
11 III. Allegro vivo 5:20
CD 3 [44:45]
Trio for Piano and Strings in D Minor Op. 120
1 Allegro ma non troppo 6:00
2 Andantino 9:32
3 Allegro vivo 4:48
Quartet for Strings in E Minor Op. 121
4 I Allegro moderato 6:32
5 II Andante 10:06
6 III Allegro 7:42
CD 4 [69:02]
Quartet for Piano and Strings in C Minor Op. 15
1 I. Allegro molto moderato 9:51
2 II. Scherzo: Allegro vivo 5:46
3 III. Adagio 7:24
4 IV. Allegro molto 8:51
Quartet for Piano and Strings No. 2 in G minor Op. 45
5 Allegro molto moderato 11:58
6 Allegro molto 3:37
7 Adagio non troppo 11:41
8 Allegro molto 9:50
CD 5 [68:33]
Quintet for Piano and Strings Nr.1 Op. 89
1 Molto Moderato 12:06
2 Adagio 11:35
3 Allegretto moderato 8:22
Quintet for Piano and Strings No.2 Op. 115
4 I. Allegro moderato 11:53
5 II. Allegro vivo 4:13
6 III. Andante moderato 12:48
7 IV. Allegro molto 6:31
8 Morceau de lecture for Two Cellos 0:59
Renaud Capuçon (violin); Gautier Capuçon (cello); Gérard Caussé (viola); Nicholas Angelich (piano); Michel Dalberto (piano); Quatuor Ébène
rec. various dates, various locations
VIRGIN CLASSICS 5099907087523 [5 CDs: 312:00]

The sound of this set, with the exception of the string quartet, is so bad that it is best to look elsewhere for this music.