After hosting an IVCI Laureate Series recital Tuesday, the
IHC's Basile Theater's piano had to be retuned (it took a good part of the day)
to be ready for Wednesday evening's second appearance under Ensemble Music
Society auspices of the Fauré Piano Quartet. Its performers are pianist Dirk
Mommertz, violinist Erika Geldsetzer, violist Sasha Frömbling and cellist
Konstantin Heidrich. And
it is perhaps fitting that the Fauré Piano Quartet performed the Fauré Piano
Quartet No. 1 in C
Minor, Op. 15 as its last offering. Gabrielle Fauré (1845-1924) wrote two
in this form, and they both rate among his best chamber music.
This German based group began the concert with a work of German
composer Volker David Kirchner (b. 1942)--his Piano Quartet No. 1 (no date found). Lasting about ten
minutes, this avant-garde work is painfully soft and unrelievably slow. The piano thumps
chords while the strings decorate with varying figures, playing white (i.e. no
are occasional eruptions of sound, but then they disappear. Our performers poured themselves into it; they
know how to play it. But
it probably mattered to few in attendance.
We were then relieved with Richard Strauss's early and
interesting Piano Quartet in C Minor, Op. 13 (1884). Though he had not found his own mature
voice at age 20, his only piano quartet is filled with earlier Romantic
allusions and rather bold harmonic experimentation, together with challenging
writing for the piano. Mommertz was kept
busy with difficult passage work all over the piano's compass while the strings
offered more lyric repose.
The work's four movements offered a variety of late 19th-century
styles. The second movement, a Scherzo, gave us runaway speed, complex rhythms
and passages in a somewhat jocular vein.
Our chamber group saved the best for last. Fauré's quartet is among the last
bastion of full-blown romanticism, its flower perhaps starting to wilt. Within its five
movements we had a Scherzo followed by an Allegro Vivace, which continued the
rhythm and pace. And
in its fifth movement, near the end, we hear a soft bit of impressionism, and
are reminded that Ravel had been a pupil of Fauré.
This is the first touring piano quartet group I've ever
heard, and thus the best piano quartet playing I've heard. Throughout the above works, the Fauré
delivered precision, instrument balance, well controlled vibrato and that sense
of a matched ensemble -- attributes difficult to find in a "pickup" group of
professional musicians who join to play one piano quartet in a concert of
varied chamber genres.
Our "matched ensemble" decided, after thundering, standing
applause to play as an encore "Ballet of the Chicks in their Shells" from
Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. It was an
Feb. 11; Indiana History Center