Gabriel Fauré: Piano Quartets No. 1, Op. 15 & No. 2, Op. 45
Gabriel Fauré: Piano Quartets No. 1, Op. 15 & No. 2, Op. 45. Bärenreiter urtext, €39.95 each.
Clarity, poetry, and restraint characterize Gabriel Fauré’s music, heard in the treasure trove of miniatures that mirror his gift for song (such as the poignant “Berceuse,” Op. 16, and the haunting “Elegy,” Op. 24).
With an interest in chamber music spanning his entire career, Fauré translated his exquisite gift for song to strings and their interaction with the piano in these quartets. With a sensitive understanding for their tonal and emotional range, his beautiful themes undergo chameleon-like changes of texture and mood.
Bearing in mind that his first piano quartet predates Debussy and Ravel’s first mature works by ten and 20 years respectively, Fauré’s quartets still sound refreshingly modern.
The first in C minor, Op. 15, completed in 1879, is beloved in chamber-music circles for its warm eloquence. It boasts a bold and sweeping opening, a scintillating Finale, and in between a dazzling variety of tonal effects; the effervescent Scherzo, one of his rare showpieces, perfectly balances the whole. The Adagio, full of noble restraint, yet tinged with sadness, alternately yearning,and dreamily nostalgic, is surely one of the most heart-stirring themes in all music.
The G minor Op. 45 piano quartet is more robust and powerful, but retains Fauré’s subtle, atmospheric harmonic language throughout its long-arching melodies. Against his trademark arpeggiated undertones from the piano, the strings gather momentum, moving through light and shade, with the final Allegro molto intensifying to an impassioned ending. A tender central Adagio non troppo evocatively recalls
“a peal of bells from a distant village.”
Refined workmanship,w elegance, and constantly shifting colors redolent of impressionism are Fauré’s hallmarks in these exquisitely wrought works. This is quintessential Fauré, standing tall with his predecessors in the genre: Mozart, Schumann, and Brahms.
Bärenreiter’s critical-scholarly editions are impeccably researched and give these well-loved gems of the piano-quartet repertoire their full due in generously laid-out scores and parts.