Fauré Quartett Coffee Morning

Piano Quartet in E flat, K493
Piano Quartet No.1 in C minor, Op.15

Fauré Quartett
[Erika Geldsetzer (violin), Sascha Frömbling (viola), Konstantin Heidrich (cello) & Dirk Mommertz (piano)]

Reviewed by: Douglas Cooksey

Reviewed: 19 March, 2006
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Standing room only for this Sunday morning Coffee Concert by the Fauré Quartett, a German group, previously a recipient of the Parkhouse Award, which has just issued Mozart’s piano quartets on Deutsche Grammophon.

E flat seems a favourite signature for piano quartets. Mozart, Schumann and Dvořák all contributed masterpieces in this key, although Brahms avoided it in his three works for the medium. Mozart’s work places extraordinary demands on the pianist (perhaps the reason why Clifford Curzon’s recording with the Amadeus Quartet reigned unchallenged for so many years) and the Fauré’s pianist, Dirk Mommertz, proved fully equal with playing glittering and sensitive and with virility and delicacy held in superb balance. The work’s kernel is the central Larghetto, here taken quite flowingly, but with its many pauses perfectly timed. The Allegretto finale positively chuckled – E flat is, after all, Mozart’s feel-good key – and Erika Geldsetzer’s sweet-toned, butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth, exchanges with Mommertz were an exemplar of wit.

The work by the group’s inspiration, Fauré, was equally distinguished, Konstantin Heidrich’s cello soaring effortlessly in the Adagio and Sascha Frömbling’s rich-toned viola a constant presence. The last two movements were outstanding, poised in the slow movement and with ecstatic release in the finale. This was a very ‘public’ account of Fauré’s work, and while it is certainly possible to play the work more intimately – Domus for one finds a lighter, more playful touch for the scherzo – it was quite superlatively played by the eponymous musicians as well as being deeply moving.

One would love to hear the Fauré Quartett (augmented) tackle César Franck’s Piano Quintet, which would respond well to the musicians’ luxuriant sound. As a generous encore was the Andante cantabile from Schumann’s sole Piano Quartet before the collective dash for the glass of free Wigmore sherry (or coffee!). Would that all concert halls were so civilised!

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