Piano Quartet in G minor, K478
Piano Quartet in F minor, Op.2
Piano Quartet in G minor, Op.25
Fauré Quartett [Dirk Mommertz (piano), Erika Geldsetzer (violin), Sascha Frömbling (viola) & Konstantin Heidrich (cello)]
Reviewed by: Douglas Cooksey
Reviewed: 17 November, 2007
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
Three piano quartets in a minor key, two of them in G minor, but there was nothing remotely ‘minor key’ about this concert. Whilst good string quartets abound and even proliferate, genuine piano quartets are rare enough to be designated an endangered species, and the Fauré Quartett is a very good one indeed. Winners of the Parkhouse Award in 2003, its defining characteristic is that individually any one of the players would make a superb soloist, yet put them together and they metamorphose into a group which is far more than the sum of their parts. In this, they remind of another great combination, the Istomin-Stern-Rose piano trio.
In opening with Mozart’s G minor Piano Quartet the group was completing some unfinished business, having given us Mozart’s E flat Quartet at a previous Wigmore appearance in March 2006. To be frank, given the almost orchestral power of the Fauré Quartett’s playing, one had concern as to how Mozart would fare. From the clipped opening statement it was apparent that this was Mozart on the largest canvas, Romantic but also unfailingly stylish and emotionally-generous playing, Sascha Frömbling’s eloquent viola very much the glue in the mix. In the outer movements there was a real sense of voyage, the almost Schubertian key-change at the end of the finale subtly highlighted, the movement itself slightly pressured by being Allegro rather than Allegro moderato, but with such characterful, sensitively dovetailed playing there was also an infectious lift.
The evening’s real discovery was the second of Mendelssohn’s three piano quartets, written in 1823 when he was only 14. Another extraordinary example of his precocity, its piano part calls for quite outstanding feats of what the Victorians would have doubtless termed ‘prestidigitation’, especially in the moto perpetuo finale, despatched here with exceptional panache and elan by Dirk Mommertz. The Adagio, its conclusion ever more hushed, drew playing of poise and sensitivity, combining utmost control and music-making of rare depth.
Brahms’s First Piano Quartet is music so orchestral in feel that Schoenberg orchestrated it. The most remarkable aspect of the Fauré Quartett’s performance was a sense of power held in reserve. There were no false heroics here, yet the group unerringly found subtle variations of pulse, locating the plateaux of comparative calm in the stormy first movement whilst reserving full orchestral weight for its one true climax just before the close. The shadowy Intermezzo’s trio had a real quicksilver quality, not the word one most readily associates with Brahms, whilst the Andante’s epilogue was simply refulgent with the kind of saturated back-lit glow one gets in good performances of the finale of the Third Symphony. Propelled by some virtuoso pianism, the work’s Hungarian finale took wing.
As an encore was a most sensitive reading of the Andante cantabile from Schumann’s Piano Quartet, culminating in as refined a cello solo from Konstantin Heidrich as it would be possible to imagine.