Fauré; Franck String Quartets
Two swansongs, and in each case it’s the composer’s only string quartet. But how different these works are – the Franck overflowing with invention, drama and passion, while Fauré’s sparer textures and unchanging motion leave an impression of reflective melancholy. Roger Nichols’s excellent notes point out, though, how the music of both composers has the quality of intériorité, of intimacy and self-examination.
This is a notably well recorded disc; we’re placed, it seems, right in the middle of the music-making, and from the opening bars of the Franck we feel the intensity of the Dante’s commitment. You may consider, as I did, that their intense approach, with powerful vibrato and bow pressure applied even to the voices filling out the harmony, tends to become rather wearing. The Ysaÿe Quartet (Ysaÿe, 6/07), at a more flowing tempo and concentrating on resonant rather than emotionally charged tone, may not make the same initial impact but they allow the noble, touching quality of Franck’s invention to make its full effect. The Dante performance, however, is still a fine one, by turns vigorous and tender, and with impressive variety of expression.
In the Fauré there’s a nice ebb and flow of feeling as the music progresses – in a leisurely way in the Andante, more purposeful in the outer movements. I find the Miami Quartet (Conifer, 3/98 – nla), with silky tone, rhythmic flexibility and sophisticated control of internal balance, come closer to the heart of this elusive music, but you may prefer the Dante’s more earthy approach. It’s certainly playing of great accomplishment.