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Piano Quartet No.1 in C minor Op.15

Gabriel Fauré (b. 1845 - d. 1924)

Tanja Becker-Bender

Tanja Becker-Bender

Composer
Gabriel Fauré (b. 1845 - d. 1924)
Composition Year
1876-83
Work Movements
1. Allegro molto moderato
2. Scherzo. Allegro vivo
3. Adagio
4. Allegro molto
Artists
Antti Siirala [piano], Andreas Brantelid [cello], Lawrence Power [viola], Tanja Becker-Bender [violin]

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

The huge upsurge in French chamber music in the last decades of the 19th Century was substantially due to the foundation of the Societé Nationale de Musique as a reaction against the superficial glitz of Parisian musical life. The Society was founded by Saint-Saëns, with the close collaboration of Franck, Lalo, Duparc, Bizet, Massenet and Fauré. The society was staunchly nationalistic, it was run by and for French musicians, specifically in opposition to the dominance of German music. However Fauré, despite being the Society's secretary, focused his youthful musical life on the famous Parisian salons, where he was welcomed as a student of Saint-Saëns.

One of these salons was that of the famous singer, Pauline Viardot, who was also a brilliant pianist, spoke five languages and was close friends with most of the literary figures of the time. She was very taken with Saint-Saëns' intense but engaging student, particularly his sense of humour and his passion for dancing. Fauré quickly fell in love with one of her daughters, but after a long courtship and engagement, she broke off the relationship, terrified by Fauré's passionate nature. Fauré was devastated and his despair affected his music, darkening its emotional energy. The C minor Piano Quartet was written two years later and carries the mark of his sorrow.

This work is among Fauré's masterpieces. Its powerful sense of sweeping élan, the Parisian elegance of the scherzo and the darkness buried deep in the adagio bear all the assurance and craftsmanship of a master. The strongly rhythmic opening theme is announced immediately by the strings, seconded by sweeping syncopated chords from the piano. The second subject is in short graceful phrases, but is rather overwhelmed by the powerful first theme. The passion of this movement is balanced by the very French elegance of the Scherzo. The sophisticated banter of the piano is set up against stylish pizzicato strings, leading to razor-sharp exchanges of melodic exclamations; the Trio continues in much the same vein, though the strings attempt to wax sentimental, quickly brushed away by the return of the bantering boulevardiers.

The Adagio theme is introduced by the cello and piano before being gradually intensified by the successive addition of viola and violin leading to a powerful crescendo. The sensuous second subject is also stated first in the strings with the piano just accompanying but eventually all four instruments work up a passionate climax leading to a return of the opening, with the second theme eventually reappearing as the coda, to end pianissimo.

Fauré discarded his original finale, writing a new one four years later. This is by far the most extrovert movement in the work, ecstatic and violent in mood, contrasting the manic energy of the first theme with a passionately beautiful love theme. This movement has less and less time for quiet lyricism and virtuosity, vigour and virility increasingly take over, leading eventually to a fiery conclusion. 

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Piano Quartet No.1 in C minor Op.15

Composer: Gabriel Fauré (b. 1845 - d. 1924)
Performance date: Wednesday 4th July 2012
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer Gabriel Fauré (b. 1845 - d. 1924)
Work Title Piano Quartet No.1 in C minor Op.15
Composition Year 1876-83
Work Movements 1. Allegro molto moderato
2. Scherzo. Allegro vivo
3. Adagio
4. Allegro molto
Artist(s) Antti Siirala [piano], Andreas Brantelid [cello], Lawrence Power [viola], Tanja Becker-Bender [violin]
Performance Date Wednesday 4th July 2012
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Main Evening Concert
Duration 00:31:32
Recording Engineer Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Piano Quartet/Piano Quintet
Instrumentation vn, va, vc, pf
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

The huge upsurge in French chamber music in the last decades of the 19th Century was substantially due to the foundation of the Societé Nationale de Musique as a reaction against the superficial glitz of Parisian musical life. The Society was founded by Saint-Saëns, with the close collaboration of Franck, Lalo, Duparc, Bizet, Massenet and Fauré. The society was staunchly nationalistic, it was run by and for French musicians, specifically in opposition to the dominance of German music. However Fauré, despite being the Society's secretary, focused his youthful musical life on the famous Parisian salons, where he was welcomed as a student of Saint-Saëns.

One of these salons was that of the famous singer, Pauline Viardot, who was also a brilliant pianist, spoke five languages and was close friends with most of the literary figures of the time. She was very taken with Saint-Saëns' intense but engaging student, particularly his sense of humour and his passion for dancing. Fauré quickly fell in love with one of her daughters, but after a long courtship and engagement, she broke off the relationship, terrified by Fauré's passionate nature. Fauré was devastated and his despair affected his music, darkening its emotional energy. The C minor Piano Quartet was written two years later and carries the mark of his sorrow.

This work is among Fauré's masterpieces. Its powerful sense of sweeping élan, the Parisian elegance of the scherzo and the darkness buried deep in the adagio bear all the assurance and craftsmanship of a master. The strongly rhythmic opening theme is announced immediately by the strings, seconded by sweeping syncopated chords from the piano. The second subject is in short graceful phrases, but is rather overwhelmed by the powerful first theme. The passion of this movement is balanced by the very French elegance of the Scherzo. The sophisticated banter of the piano is set up against stylish pizzicato strings, leading to razor-sharp exchanges of melodic exclamations; the Trio continues in much the same vein, though the strings attempt to wax sentimental, quickly brushed away by the return of the bantering boulevardiers.

The Adagio theme is introduced by the cello and piano before being gradually intensified by the successive addition of viola and violin leading to a powerful crescendo. The sensuous second subject is also stated first in the strings with the piano just accompanying but eventually all four instruments work up a passionate climax leading to a return of the opening, with the second theme eventually reappearing as the coda, to end pianissimo.

Fauré discarded his original finale, writing a new one four years later. This is by far the most extrovert movement in the work, ecstatic and violent in mood, contrasting the manic energy of the first theme with a passionately beautiful love theme. This movement has less and less time for quiet lyricism and virtuosity, vigour and virility increasingly take over, leading eventually to a fiery conclusion.