Fauré: Piano Quintets Nos. 1 & 2

Schubert Ensemble of London

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Fauré: Piano Quintets Nos. 1 & 2 Review

by James Leonard

These readings of Fauré's two late piano quintets by the Schubert Ensemble of London are paradoxical. The group's performances are strong-willed and purposeful in the outer movements, particularly in the C minor Quintet's ever accelerating Finale, yet soft-focused and sensuous in the central slow movements, especially the D minor Quintet's deeply dolorous Adagio. The tone changes from robustly incisive to sweetly sonorous, the ensemble from vigorously muscular to smoothly refined, and the rhythms from sharply accented to softly undulating. These paradoxes lie at the heart of Fauré's music and his aesthetic, and the English players effectively deliver on the promise of the scores. Because they are able to fuse these paradoxes into unified wholes, their performances are entirely successful and often thoroughly moving. While perhaps not French enough for some listeners, the Schubert Ensemble's performances are arguably among the finest international performances. Chandos' digital sound is immediate yet still atmospheric, a fine combination appropriate to the works and the performances.

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