Franck String Quartet; Piano Quintet
This outstanding disc of two of Franck’s late masterpieces features the Fine Arts Quartet with Cristina Ortiz in the Piano Quintet, a work she first recorded for EMI with the Medici Quartet (8/78R). Since that time she has broadened and clarified her reading of music so turbulent and rawly emotional that it offended Liszt’s notion of chamber music, Saint-Saëns’s sense of musical decorum and, perhaps more understandably, Franck’s wife who knew that such an outpouring was hardly inspired by her own comfortable and domestic nature. At all events Franck hurled his Pater Seraphicus image aside in one of music’s most blazing and unsettling utterances. Ortiz and her colleagues realise all of Franck’s pent-up feeling in a performance of a special musical refinement and commitment, while hardly aiming at the emotional vortex achieved by Clifford Curzon and the Amadeus Quartet on their inimitable BBC Legends disc (5/01). The Fine Arts Quartet, too, are entirely at home in the very different scope of the String Quartet, relishing both the music’s contrapuntal intricacy and its full-blown romanticism. They are notably successful in the second movement’s hallucinatory, stop-go flight; almost as if Mendelssohn’s fairy-tale scherzos had become darkened with unease. Naxos’s sound is less than ideal in the Quartet but is beautifully and realistically balanced in the Quintet. I shall look forward to more exceptional music-making from this team.