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Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Piano Quartet No.2 in G minor Op.45 (1885-86) [33:40]
Dolly Suite (Berceuse) Op.56 (1893) [2:41]
Trois romances sans paroles Op.17 (c.1863) [6:11]
Piano Trio in D minor Op.120 (for clarinet, cello and piano) (1922-1923) [19:22]
Kungsbacka Piano Trio (Malin Broman (piano); Jesper Svedberg (cello); Simon Crawford-Phillips (piano)); Philip Dukes (viola), Richard Hosford (clarinet)
rec. 17-19 April 2013, Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth, UK
NAXOS 8.573223 [62:07]

Three years ago, in August 2011, the pianist of the Anglo-Swedish Kungsbacka Piano Trio, Simon Crawford-Phillips was interviewed by Jeremy Siepmann. He answered the final question 'What's in the pipeline for the Trio now?' with 'I don't know what the next recording project will be. We've been talking about maybe Martinů trios or even Fauré piano quartets, either or both of which would be fun.' If the former project has not yet come to fruition, the latter now has. In October 2013 the first of Fauré's Piano Quartets (Op.15), a marvellous work, was issued by Naxos (8.573042) together with the revised version of the Piano Trio Op.120 (the one with violin) and three fillers, his Pavane, Vocalise and Sicilienne. This therefore is the follow-up disc which has the same personnel as well as the same format of Piano Quartet, the same Trio but in Fauré's original version for clarinet. Again, there are a couple of short fillers.

Fauré was not only a fine pianist and organist but also a highly influential figure in the field of French musical education, eventually (1905) as head of the Paris Conservatoire, where Ravel, Koechlin, Enescu and Nadia Boulanger were among his pupils. As to his own significance as a composer, his almost eighty years led French music along the path from the depths of Romanticism to post-First World War Modernism. The composer himself was the pianist at the first performance of the second Piano Quartet in January 1887 at the Société Nationale, which indicates his prowess as a pianist ... and that of its dedicatee Hans von Bülow. Crawford-Phillips rises expertly to its demands in his forthright account right from the opening G minor figurations. Fauré's harmonic language is imbued with a great deal of subtlety, his key relationships often either take circuitous routes or they are blatantly juxtaposed with instances of breath-taking beauty. Two such moments stand out, a felicitous switch of key in the first movement (at the 6th bar of B and at L) and in the slow movement at letter C, as the viola (Philip Dukes) moves the music from A major to F major, achieved by a slight hesitation in the phrasing. What impresses in the playing of all the musicians on this superb disc is the absence of any struggle between piano and strings; it is not a case of the piano playing against the three string players.

The far earlier Three Songs without Words and the later Berceuse for violin and piano - the piano duet version of which will take those 'sitting comfortably' to the wireless programme 'Listen with Mother' - are charming and sensitive. The Clarinet Trio adds new dimensions to make an interesting alternative version of that with violin. The sheer enjoyment manifest on this disc marks it out as chamber music played at its highest level.

Christopher Fifield