Neglected Fauré Gets an Airing

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Fauré: Renaud Capuçon (violin), Gérard Caussé (viola), Gautier Capuçon (cello), Nicholas Angelich (piano), Michel Dalberto (piano) Wigmore Hall, London, 2.5.2013 (RB)

Fauré: Cello Sonata No. 2 in G minor Op 117
Violin Sonata No. 1 in A Op 13
Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor Op 45

This was the second of three scheduled concerts dedicated to the music of Gabriel Fauré (the third has unfortunately been cancelled as a member of the Quatuor Ebène being indisposed). The Capuçon brothers – both concert soloists in their own right – were joined by three other distinguished concert soloists to make up an auspicious chamber music gathering.

Gautier Caupçon was joined by Nicholas Angelich for Fauré’s Second Cello Sonata which was written in 1921 and shows the composer beginning to test the boundaries of conventional harmony. Angelich captured the restlessness of the piano writing in the opening movement while Capuçon conjured a very pure and unsullied tone from his Goffriller cello capturing perfectly the sense of restrained passion and disquiet in the music. The slow movement is a funeral march and here Capuçon showed us he can really make the cello sing. There was some lovely shaping of the melodic line and an impressive range of dynamic and tonal control from Capuçon (the soft playing was excellent and conveyed perfectly the wistful and reflective nature of the piece). The finale marked Allegro vivo uses syncopated rhythms, scurrying scales and unusual harmonic progressions. Angelich and Capuçon were both on top of the technical demands of this rather elusive movement, and the textural contrasts were very good, although occasionally the balance was not quite right with Angelich drowning out Capuçon.

Gautier’s elder brother Renaud then took the stage and was joined by Michel Dalberto for Fauré’s magisterial A major Sonata. It shares the same key signature as César Franck’s Violin Sonata and foreshadows that great work in the way it unifies themes within a cyclic framework. Dalberto injected breadth and grandeur into the piano part in the opening Allegro molto, and he and Capuçon gave the music an organic feel. Both players were alive to every subtlety and nuance of the music while at the same unleashing the passions within the score. The Andante is one of the most beautiful slow movements ever written for piano and violin and Capuçon gave us a highly expressive account sustaining the long sinuous melody exquisitely and allowing the movement to build up in a rapturous way. The interplay between both players was excellent in the skittish scherzo and both were highly responsive to the changes in mood and texture. An air of Gallic refinement seemed to pervade the finale and I was impressed with the ease and flow with which the music was allowed to unfold (Dalberto’s phrasing and handling of the passagework was particularly good).

The Capuçon brothers and Angelich were joined by Gérard Caussé for the final item on the programme, Fauré’s G minor Piano Quartet. This work was written around 1886 and it may have been inspired by the death of the composer’s father the previous year. Angelich again captured the bustling energy of the piano part in the opening movement while the string players all conveyed the sense of angst in the writing but without being overbearing. Caussé brought warmth and humanity to the music after the initial passion had subsided and the subsequent dialogue between the string players was particularly affecting. Angelich brought a manic energy to the disquieting scherzo with its chromatic spectres and stabbing tritones. The slow movement is a very beautiful but elusive work with its evocation of bells and subdued passions. The string players conveyed a halo-like glow at the opening and allowed the music to ripen. There was a subtle evocation of light and shade and a bitter sweet feeling of nostalgia at the end. In the finale one has the sense of the composer working through rather complex feelings before finding a satisfactory resolution. The string players captured this sense of striving and some of the phrasing was highly sensual before the movement reached its final G major conclusion.

This was altogether a great concert and good to see Fauré’s chamber music receiving the attention it deserves.

Robert Beattie