WORKS: Piano Quintets Nos 1 & 2
PERFORMER: Schubert Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10576
It is hard not to be beguiled by the charms of Fauré’s First Piano Quintet when played with the kind of understanding displayed by The Schubert Ensemble. Grasping that this work may not drag the listener through the emotional wringer in the manner of Franck’s masterpiece for the genre, they judge its slow-burning splendour masterfully. The long-breathed melodies of the exquisite slow movement are hypnotic, and they mix intensity with panache in the final movement.
They are similarly convincing in the late C minor Quintet, with its air of freedom, having been composed in the wake of Fauré’s retirement as director of the Paris Conservatoire. Certainly the scampering scherzo (Allegro vivo) has the character of a man rejuvenated, even if he was in his mid-seventies at the time.
The Schubert Ensemble capture this carefree spirit, and show their experience in their control of the slowly increasing pace of the playful final movement. William Howard brings a suitably fleet-fingered lightness of touch to the shyly virtuosic piano part, and each of the string players combines beauty with incisiveness. Christopher Dingle