- Audio CD (Jan. 1 1983)
- SPARS Code: DDD
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: Import
- Label: Hyperion
- ASIN: B000002ZI8
- In-Print Editions: Audio CD
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
Pno Qrts 1/2 Import
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Quatuors avec piano n°1 en ut mineur, op.15 & n°2 en sol mineur, op.45 / Quatuor Domus
There are three great chamber music composers from the second half of the 19th century: Brahms, Dvorák, and Fauré. Of the three, Fauré is by far the least well known, even in France. French music in the 19th century was almost entirely centered on opera and ballet, and while Fauré did make at least one contribution to the operatic stage (Penelope), he was far more involved in composing chamber music and songs. The two piano quartets are both extremely fine works, beautifully crafted, and full of warmly Romantic melody. This disc was one of the first by non-French performers to make the case for Fauré as a truly great composer of chamber music, and it still sounds very impressive. --David Hurwitz
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Despite that award, this disc is attracting surprisingly little comment nowadays. The quartets seem absolutely marvellous music to me, but one of the practical barriers to a wider audience for them is probably that Faure's music is a frustrating combination of technically difficult and not at all showy. He was one of the most subtle and original harmonists there has ever been (the second quartet being very notable in this respect), and certainly as far as the piano writing is concerned he keeps taking one's fingers where they are not expecting to go. These accounts are outstanding for their naturalness and spontaneity. They probably make the music sound a lot easier than it actually is, and that is no doubt the nub of the matter because any sense of effort or struggle would kill music like this. It is all very 'professional' in its way, but by today's standards not especially refined. The pianist in particular, while very accurate, is - what am I trying to say? - no Michelangeli. I have only one life, and this record has enhanced it. I can imagine smoother, but whether that would be better in any sense I could recognise I simply do not know, and I simply do not care.
A certain amount of dutiful comment sometimes attends the first quartet relating it to the composer's failed engagement. All this, in my personal view, is best ignored. Faure's emotions were doubtless as strong as Wagner's for all I know. The real point in that comparison is that they represent, musically, opposite poles. Wagner thought, not unreasonably, that he was riding the tide of history in his commitment to music that was not 'absolute' in the sense that Bach's music was that, but which bound itself to an underlying poetic or dramatic idea. He had every reason to believe this - other than Chopin no composer that I can think of since Bach's time was an undiluted 'absolute' musician. Then there was, abruptly, Brahms. Anything but unemotional, anything but indifferent to women, Brahms simply revived a tradition that had not died and only slept. Whatever their personal emotions, Brahms and Faure express music purely, as Bach had done - they do not use music to express something else. Listen to this wonderful music just for itself.
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Faure is something of a neglected French Romantic composer hiding in the shadows of Debussy, Ravel and others. Yet, his music is some of the most equisite, beautiful and rewarding - from the Violin Sonatas (Tomes/Osostowicz) to the Piano Trio (Floristan Trio w/Tomes) to the Piano Quartets here. All are worth hearing and exploring if you like chamber or French Romantic music.
Listening again to this recording now in comparison with the more recent one by the Trio Wanderer, I find each corrects the slight excesses of the other. The Domus group tends to take more time with the atmospheric stretches, especially the third slow movement, and perhaps its a bit too slow. The brilliant Trio Wanderer play faster, do not give in to the temptation to linger over the lyrical sections. But in their faster and more aggressive performance, they sacrifice some of the Faure magic which the Domus captures. My suggestion: get both recordings. Both terrific, and each suits one at different times.
Faure composed his second quartet in 1885-6. It is even less well know than the first quartet but is more original in style, with Faure's unique harmonies and key relationships. The opening theme is especially striking, and the lyrical slow movement verges on atonality at times. The last movement is quite energetic. This is a beautiful quartet and certainly deserves to be performed more frequently.
The Domus Quartet (1979-94) was an outstanding group that received awards for their performances on this CD as well as for other of their CD's. Their playing of these Faure quartets is faultless. The recording was made in 1985, and the sound quality is excellent. I do have one very slight quibble about these performances; it seems to me that the piano part tends to dominate the stringed instruments, often the case in recordings. That may be because of microphone location, but more likely it's due to the piano lid being fully open. I personally think that using the short support to open the piano lid only slightly makes for better balance between it and the strings in quartets and trios. The large dynamic range of the piano cannot be matched by the strings. Despite that, this a splendid recording that every Faure enthusiast should have. It also is an excellent introduction to Faure's chamber music for those who are unfamiliar with it.