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Concert review: Fauré Piano Quartett not about making nice music, but experiencing it

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The Fauré Quartett plays for Music Toronto at the Jane Mallett Tehatre on Thursday night (John Terauds photo).
The Fauré Piano Quartett plays for Music Toronto at the Jane Mallett Tehatre on Thursday night (John Terauds photo).

Thursday evening spent with Germany’s Fauré Piano Quartett in their Toronto début was an all-in, full-body, edge-of-the-seat experience. That’s hardly the typical way to describe a chamber music concert.

Violinist Erika Geldsetzer, violist Sascha Froembling, cellist Konstantin Heidrich and pianist Dirk Mommertz presented an intense, two-work, late-19th-century programme for Music Toronto at the Jane Mallett Theatre.

We didn’t just hear Richard Strauss’ C minor Piano Quartet and Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition; we experienced them.

This was not chamber music as we normally think of it, but something that represented much more than the sum of four instrumental parts, thanks to these tremendously engaged and engaging performers.

The Fauré Piano Quartett shaped every note of Strauss’ quintet with absolute care, pushed the dynamics whenever possible and had an iron-clad sense of how and where each movement was going.

The communication between the four performers was as beautiful to watch as their music was satisfying to hear. This quartet thinks and breathes as one, focused on a singular, clear vision for their musicmaking.

And as wonderful as this sounds, the concert only got better after intermission when the Faurés presented a recent arrangement for their combination of instruments of Pictures at an Exhibition by Hamburg-based pianist Grigoriy Gruzman.

As familiar as Mussorgsky’s 1874 suite may be, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more directly evocative version. Gruzman has managed to blend the delicacy and colouring of Maurice Ravel’s orchestration with the percussive edge of the solo piano version. The three string players are asked to use every technique at their disposal to help tell this musical narrative.

Each tone painting in this suite demands a different mood, tempo and colours. It is something the Faurés took to heart, producing a spellbinding 45-minute gallery tour.

All of the music on the programme demanded that the musicians really dig in. It was not about making nicely polished sounds, but about freighting notes with emotional content as well. The Fauré’s triumph was in finding an ideal balance of these competing objectives.

I realise I’m gushing, but it is so rare to experience music this beautifully, carefully and passionately rendered. We have to hope that the Fauré Piano Quartett will come back very soon.

John Terauds



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