FAURÉ Piano Quintets
Fauré’s two piano quintets are music of an inimitable strength, radiance and intimacy, even when they release their secrets slowly. The mood of restrained elegy alternates with a sense of courage in adversity. Fauré’s last years were, after all, dogged by increasing deafness, an unhappy marriage, a wholesale neglect of even his finest works and a continuing grief over his father’s death. True, the ceaseless flow of invention has puzzled many listeners (“verse innocent of punctuation”) but for others the First Quintet’s opening theme, heard beneath a spray of piano arpeggios, or the strange, archaic dance commencing the same work’s finale are features that can haunt the imagination for ever. The whirling figuration, too, of the Second Quintet’s Allegro vivo (a memory of the Fifth Impromptu for solo piano) is again somehow part and parcel of an autumnal, other-worldly utterance that can be both heart-easing and disturbing.
Ideally balanced and recorded, Cristina Ortiz and the Fine Arts Quartet offer performances that are warmly affectionate, fluent and musicianly to the core. Surpassing even Domus’s fine Hyperion disc (7/95), these are outstanding readings and Ortiz in particular is memorably sensitive to Fauré’s subtle and intricate piano-writing. Hopefully the same team will give us in time the earlier piano quartets and the late Piano Trio.