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Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Piano Quintet No. 1, Op. 89 (1905-6) [27:33]
Piano Quintet No. 2, Op. 115 (1920) [30:36]
Régis Pasquier (violin 1, Op. 89), Sachiko Segawa (violin 2, Op. 115)
Mozart Piano Quartet
rec. 2019, Konzerthaus der Abtei Marienmünster, Germany
MDG 943 2162-6 SACD [58:09]

These late quintets aren't your father's Fauré - or yours, if you reflexively associate the composer with the Requiem's consoling tones and the Pavane's calm elegance. These later works offer us a more intense Fauré: the serenely weaving, gently dissonant Bachian counterpoint has developed into a trenchant and incisive expressive idiom; the overt drama in the still-fastidious structures calls for a more emphatic attacks and rhythmic address.

Opus 89's opening Molto moderato begins graciously, building to full-throated climaxes and subsiding; the development is restrained and fervent, gradually growing more uneasy with added linear dissonances. The tentatively aspiring Adagio sings vibrantly; the second theme is lighter, coloured by gossamer piano figures. The finale, Allegretto moderato, begins with a simple duple quietly articulated by the piano; as the strings pick up the theme, the variations become unsettled, even agitated, before propelling the movement to a satisfying finish.

Opus 115 is more "autumnal" than the earlier work, as might be expected from the aging Fauré - at the premiere, he was seventy-six - but no less intense. The outer movements are more intricately sectional and emotionally wide-ranging, with long, arching lines binding the structures. The opening Allegro moderato - the qualifier "moderato" figures in many of Fauré's indications - favours full textures and uneasy, lyrical lines; only a brief, spare fugato for strings alone brings a moment of austerity. Fluent, rippling piano scales launch the ensuing Allegro vivo, effectively a moto perpetuo, tensile rather than fizzy. The exploratory Andante is full-bodied, with the strings' theme answered by a thoughtful piano chorale. The concluding Allegro, with its irregular scansions, gains in buoyancy as the textures expand into an assertive ending.

The members of the Mozart Piano Quartet do themselves proud, not least in their choice of associate artists. Regis Pasquier, a not inconsiderable first violinist in Opus 89, no doubt brought the performance an extra kick of energy; in Opus 115, Sachiko Segawa fits in so well as second violinist that you'd never realize she wasn't a regular quartet member. The expert, insightful players capture the ebb and flow of both the longer phrases and the shorter motifs; the tricky scansions of Opus 115's finale pose them no problems.

The sound is excellent - as usual, be judicious with the volume control, or the peaks will turn strident. The dated warning on the rear leaflet, "No picture/only music," amused me. I remember when EMI, among others, offered CDs containing both audio and data (CD-ROM) layers - but that was long ago.

Stephen Francis Vasta

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