Franck: String Quartet in D, FWV9;Piano Quintet in F minor
The pairing of Franck’s String Quartet and Piano Quintet on a single disc should really come with a health warning. Something like ‘do not listen to both works in one sitting if you are operating heavy machinery or have a heart condition’ would do the trick. The Quintet is so passionate that it caused Franck’s wife to become suspicious that he was having an affair, while Saint-Saëns was so ruffled by it that, having given the premiere, he stomped off, leaving the score
that had been dedicated to him on the music stand.
For a long time the quartet was a Cinderella of the chamber repertoire, but several exceptionally fine recordings have appeared in recent years reflecting that it is, at long last, taking its rightful place at the heart of the repertoire. The Fine Arts Quartet bring a warm tone to the work, and there are some wonderfully idiomatic portamento sighs. They are at their very best in both slow movements, with Christina Ortiz matching their ebb and flow perfectly in the Quintet.
In the last movement they build up an effective head of steam, taking a slow-burn approach to Franck’s continual ratcheting up of the tension. If there is a caveat it is that the opening pages of the work could grab the throat more firmly, with greater sense of direction. This is a strong performance, but the Petersens and Arturo Pizarro’s outstanding accounts of both works (Phoenix) demonstrated that even the silences can crackle with intent. Christopher Dingle