Fauré Quartett

Piano Quartet in A minor
Piano Quartet in E flat, Op.47
Piano Quartet in E flat, Op.87

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

Reviewed by: Douglas Cooksey

Reviewed: 9 November, 2004
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

The German-member Fauré Quartett (hence the two ts)are the current Parkhouse Award winners. The next Award is in April 2005 and was founded in 1990 to commemorate the life and work of the distinguished pianist, David Parkhouse; this biannual award is for piano with strings and previous winners include the Grieg Trio and the Ondine Piano Trio.

We shall doubtless be hearing much more of the Fauré Quartett, especially in a world where piano quartets are often ad hoc groups: the Fauré Quartett is the genuine article. All four players are strong and distinctive personalities – no room for shrinking violets here – but what’s immediately apparent is that they really play as a single collective unit, listening, blending and responding to each other with collective freedom and sensitivity; all four musicians produce a notably full-bodied sound of resonant depth.

The highlight of this well-chosen programme – a slight surplus of E flat aside – was undoubtedly the Dvořák. Especially in the outer movements this was muscular, leonine playing, Dvořák via Brahms maybe but none the worse for that, and entirely apt given the close relationship between the two composers. There was also real sensitivity, and it would be a poor soul indeed who was not deeply moved by the opening of the slow movement as Konstantin Heidrich’s soaring cello theme was picked up by Erika Geldsetzer’s rich-toned violin over the murmuring viola of Sascha Frömbling: a moment of purest frisson. Indeed, the middle movements of this work are of supreme quality and received here a performance fully worthy of the music; concentrated in the slow movement and combining virility and charm in equal measure in the exotic Mazurka-like third movement.

Schumann’s Piano Quartet is a joyous, radiant work and one which has perhaps been unfairly overshadowed by the Piano Quintet (Op.44, also in E flat). Whilst echt-Schumann, each of its four movements are also curiously reminiscent of other composers; the first movement is somewhat Mozartian, the scherzo recalls Mendelssohn, and the melancholy slow movement is charged with Tchaikovskian soulful expression. As for the turbo-charged, fugal finale, my vote would go to Bach. Could this work be a case of musical schizophrenia? Led by Dirk Mommertz’s stylish pianism, it received a performance of resounding quality, a tad lacking in light and shade maybe, but how good to hear a group taking up a fine work too little played.

The recital had opened with Mahler’s one-movement Piano Quartet, written when he was only 16, and a worthwhile curiosity. The Wigmore Hall has immediately re-booked the Fauré Quartett, the first, hopefully, of many return visits.

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