Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Piano Quintet No. 1 (1890-94) [31.39]
Piano Quintet No. 2 (1919-21) [34.20]
Quatuor Ebène (Pierre Colombet (violin I); Gabriel Le Magadure
(violin II); Mathieu Herzog (viola); Raphaël Merlin (cello)); Éric
Le Sage (piano)
rec. Maison de la Culture de Grenoble, 25-28 October 2010
ALPHA 602 [66:15]
Of these two glowing piano quintets,
each suffused with a serene nostalgia, it is the Second, written when
the composer was at the end of his life, which appeals most. It was
immediately lauded. The premiere audience was dazzled according to the
author of the album’s notes, Nicolas Southon, who claims that
the work is “perhaps his most important chamber score”.
The Second Piano Quintet begins with gentle rippling piano arpeggios.
The viola presents the lovely main theme echoed by the other strings.
After a passionate climax the second theme, another beauty is ushered
in by the strings and made fugal before the piano softly embellishes
it. The music proceeds ecstatically on its way. This is an entrancing
opening movement and Éric Le Sage’s gentle poetic way with
the music enchants. The quartet’s sensibilities are no less sympathetic
to Fauré’s delicate idiom. The little Allegro vivo
second movement is a gem. The piano scampers capriciously before the
strings restrain with a gorgeous tender romantic waltz. Koechlin saw
the imploring, heartfelt music that is the Andante moderato as
evoking ‘arms stretched out towards a past that is never to return’.
I am unashamed to admit that tears stood in my eyes through this exquisite
movement. The concluding Allegro molto is more assured, it moves
implacably with less sentiment affording the players the chance to assert
The First Piano Quintet composed about twenty-five years earlier, is
cast in just three movements. It commences with many shimmering, watery
arpeggios below the entry of the strings. They state a theme of sweet
melancholy with the music becoming increasingly emotionally charged.
As Southon observes one is reminded of the atmosphere of La bonne
chanson, but sans the ‘shimmering sensuality’
- more a tendency towards austerity. The rounded Adagio’s
poignant yearnings are sometimes brushed aside by a certain cool harshness
while the concluding Allegretto moderato has a delightful freshness
and youthfulness and is created in the spirit of a charming serenade.
Southon’s notes are a model of their kind and he includes a fascinating
section where he draws a parallel between the creative aesthetics of
Fauré and Marcel Proust who was writing À la recherche
du temps perdu at about the time the composer was engaged on these
works. Proust greatly admired Fauré’s music and wrote to
the composer in the late 1890s: ‘Sir, not only do I like, admire
and adore your music, but I was and still am in love with it.’
Fauré’s idiom never fails to move and the music of this
album is no exception. This has to be a candidate for my choice of the