Fauré: Piano Quartet No. 1; Piano Quartet No. 2

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COMPOSERS: Faure
LABELS: Ottavo
ALBUM TITLE: Fauré: Piano Quartet No. 1; Piano Quartet No. 2
WORKS: Piano Quartet No. 1; Piano Quartet No. 2
PERFORMER: Aldebaran Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: OTR C 120282

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As with his violin sonatas, cello sonatas and piano quintets, Fauré composed two piano quartets and, like the other genres, the first is the more popular, while many of the composer’s devotees have a greater fondness for the half-lit soundworld of the second. Domus (Hyperion) and the Nash Ensemble (CRD) released exceptional accounts of these pieces within six months of each other in the mid-Eighties, creating a standard that has yet to be surpassed.

The prime asset boasted by this new version from the Aldebaran Quartet is an 1861 Érard grand piano which, according to pianist Jet Röling, was an interpretative revelation. That may be true, and it is wonderful to hear the more variegated timbre of the Érard rather than the homogenised texture of a modern grand, but any benefits are negated by the strings’ near-permanent vibrato. This is certainly not a historically aware performance. While the leaner resonance of the Érard allied to the clean recorded sound allows for a greater clarity in more densely scored passages, not least the very opening of the First Quartet, the Aldebaran could hardly be accused of grasping the potential for a fleet-footed approach, being some way below the tempo of both Domus and the Nash. Both scherzos lollop along, and the Aldebaran stutters through what should be the furiously driven final whirligig pages of the Second Quartet. There are fine moments, such as the grainy string melodies of the First Quartet’s Adagio, but the whole is distinctly underwhelming.

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Christopher Dingle