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Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor (1886) [33.40]
Piano Trio in D minor (clarinet version) (1922-23) [19:22]
Trois romances sans paroles (1863) [6.11]
Berceuse (from the Dolly Suite) (1893) [2.41]
Kungsbacka Piano Trio (Malin Broman (violin); Jesper Svedberg (cello); Simon Crawford-Phillips (piano)); Philip Dukes (viola – Piano Quartet No. 2); Richard Hosford (clarinet)
rec. Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth, United Kingdom, 17-19 April 2013
NAXOS 8.573223 [62.07]

My colleague Albert Lam writing here about the Kungsbacka’s 2012 recording of Fauré’s Piano Trio in D minor (Naxos 8.550765) with conventional instrumentation (violin instead of clarinet) was most enthusiastic and wrote: “This recording was my first exposure to the Kungsbacka Trio, and I’m certainly looking forward to many more great things from this exceptional ensemble.”

Having enjoyed this follow-up recording from the Kungsbacka Trio, I am inclined to agree. So, dealing first with the clarinet version of the D minor Piano Trio, the instrumentation adds a different colouration to the work and apparently this was the composer’s intention. Did Fauré go on to transpose the clarinet part to the more conventional violin to encourage more frequent performances, I wondered. Then I compared both versions and I have to say I preferred the more conventional pattern especially in that lovely central Andantino when the compatibility between the string instruments was so much more persuasive in this most intimate and searchingly contemplative music. Did Fauré think this too?

The major work here is the Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor. Fauré, himself, was the pianist in the first performance in January 1887. The Kungsbacka players augmented by Philip Dukes’ viola are most persuasive in this large-proportioned but essentially innermost declaration. Beginning boldly, the work’s opening movement contrasts mildish assertiveness with lyrical sweet, yet never cloying, sentimentality; in other words the Fauré so familiar from his songs. The short but most attractive Allegro molto scherzo that follows is based on scale patterns. I could not help thinking that its sound patterns of hurried piano runs and urgent string figures reminded me of a train ride with its locomotive charge and changes on and over its tracks. The Adagio slows the pace for tranquillity with simple bell tolls in rocking rhythms on the piano recalling the bells of Cadirac near Fauré’s home. The viola offers a gentle reassuring melody on top. The Allegro molto finale is energetic and thrusting and wayward. Its lyricism is more solemn and forceful than that heard earlier.

The programme is rounded with smaller forms. The very popular Berceuse, played here by Malin Broman — who is just a little too cool — and Simon Crawford-Phillips. The same two performers play the first of the Trois romances sans paroles (songs without words). All three are arrangements by Jules Desart (Nos. 1 and 2) and Pierre Gouin (No. 3). No. 1 is very lyrical and sentimentally romantic with one of Fauré’s most appealing melodies; No. 2 with Joseph Svedberg’s cello replacing the violin is more searchingly introspective; No. 3 with Svedberg and Crawford-Phillips again is more tuneful with a rocking rhythm given to the piano and another lovely melody for the cello.

Another beguiling album of Fauré chamber music

Ian Lace

Previous review: Christopher Fifield