Piano Quartet in A minor, Op.1
Piano Quartet in E flat, Op.87
Fauré Quartet [Dirk Mommertz (piano), Erika Geldsetzer (violin), Sascha Frömbling (viola) & Konstantin Heidrich (cello)]
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 2 April, 2012
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
These two works, by Dvořák and his son-in-law Josef Suk, are just two years apart in publication, and when performed together provide an intriguing insight into the compositional prowess of each composer. In 1889, at the time of his second published piano quartet, Dvořák had hit a particularly prolific stage of his career, while 1891 found Suk making a bold statement with his first published opus, for the same instrumental forces.
It was with the Suk that the Fauré Quartet began its BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert at Wigmore Hall, with a bold unison statement that spoke of the young composer’s confidence. This was a big sound, with a real depth to Dirk Mommertz’s piano that was occasionally too heavy from the left hand, but which more often than not had an impressive presence. The strength of the melodic material was also immediately evident, more so when Konstantin Heidrich presented a more withdrawn take on the attractive tune with which the Adagio begins. This highlighted the melancholic side of Suk’s personality, a significant feature of his ‘Asrael’ symphony, affected as it was by the death of his wife and his father-in-law. Here the music was tinged with regret but ultimately found a positive outlook. The big sound returned in the central section of this movement, and also dominated the finale, with excellently drilled unison playing.
There were a few rogue notes at the beginning of the Dvořák, which was a shame given the clear thought that was put into the phrasing and presentation of one of his very finest chamber works. The instinctive melodic writing was accentuated by often-appropriate rubato, though this did at times go a step too far, and the development of the first movement became stop-start in nature. Most successful was the scherzo, where the Fauré Quartet took the grazioso marking to the letter, making the music dance before almost completely withdrawing so that Mommertz could present the enchanting, cimbalom-like second theme. The trio was rhythmically supple. This positive music found its highest apex in the finale, which drove along impressively, though some of Mommertz’s octaves were again too dominating. The spirit of the music was the winner though, the Fauré Quartet expressive and dynamic, pushing through to the triumphant closing bars.