With an ailing pianist, the Fauré Quartet still delivers a dazzling performance at Four Arts

By Lawrence Budmen

The Fauré Quartet performed Sunday at the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach.

The Fauré Quartet presented a truncated program of piano quartets by Mendelssohn and Dvorak Sunday afternoon at the Society of Four Arts in Palm Beach.  An announcement prior to the concert stated that the quartet’s pianist Dirk Mommertz had taken ill shortly after arriving on Saturday and was hospitalized. With only a couple of hours sleep, Mommertz was feeling weak but agreed to attempt two of the originally scheduled works. Josef Suk’s Piano Quartet in A minor, originally scheduled to open the concert, was jettisoned from the program to conserve Mommertz’s stamina.

In the event, any concerns about whether the pianist could make it through the concert were unfounded. Mommertz’s brilliant pianism and musical sensitivity sparked the performances. The German based quartet is an exceptional ensemble, playing with exquisite refinement and offering strongly conceived interpretive insights. Violinist Erika Geldsetzer’s soaring tone, incisive drive and splendid musicianship provide sterling leadership. Violist Sascha Froembling’s large sonority and cellist Konstantin Heidrich’s tonal warmth blended felicitously with their colleagues.

The Piano Quartet No. 2 in F minor is the work of the 14-year-old Felix Mendelssohn. Remarkable for its  structural solidity and melodic inspiration, this score is an example of the seemingly boundless talent of the teenaged Mendelssohn. The opening melancholy theme was rendered with darkly focused intensity, Mommertz’s feathery lightness at the keyboard seeming to glide over the strings. He was alive to every turn of musical line and shape. There was aristocratic delicacy in the Adagio, the players’ supple interweaving of instrumental timbres a joy to hear. The Intermezzo was classically stated in the manner of minor key Mozart. Torrents of virtuosic octaves from Mommertz fired up the Allegro molto vivace finale, the quartet striking a pitch perfect balance of passion and rhythmic urgency .

Dvorak’s Piano Quartet No. 2 in E-flat Major is a mature work and the musicians approached it on those terms, eschewing Czech folk elements in favor of Brahmsian monumentality.

The depth and strength that the players brought to the powerful opening motif pervaded the entire performance, their corporate sound lean and transparent. Heidrich’s burnished tone and eloquent phrasing set the Lento in motion but the serene melodies were interrupted by tempestuous interludes, rendered with heated vehemence.

The quartet played the scherzo as a salon piece with gracious élan and candied sweetness.  Pulling out all the stops, the players brought buoyancy and zest to the concluding Allegro ma non troppo. Mommertz dazzled in the bravura keyboard writing and the warmth, gravitas and wonderfully integrated ensemble playing contributed to a superb performance. Here’s hoping that the Fauré Quartet returns to South Florida soon with all of its players in good health.

Posted in Performances

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Mon Feb 20, 2012
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