FAURÉ Piano Quartet No.1 (29′)
FARRENC Nonet (33′)
A spectacular launch for Sheffield Chamber Music Festival, showcasing two spellbinding works in the intimacy of the Crucible Playhouse. A passionate Piano Quartet by Gabriel Fauré – whose music our Guest Curator Steven Isserlis has described as “uniquely moving and uplifting”– opens the evening.
Louise Farrenc’s triumphant Nonet follows, with nine musicians filling the stage to perform a piece full of glorious melodies and radiant colours.
Note from Guest Curator, Steven Isserlis
“It seems fitting to begin the festival with Fauré’s first, and still most popular, work for chamber ensemble, followed by a large-scale work by one of the finest 19th century French composers, Louise Farrenc, whose music is enjoying a revival. About time!”
To celebrate the start of Sheffield Chamber Music Festival, all ticket-holders are invited to enjoy a free drink with us in the Crucible Foyer after this concert.
View the brochure online here or download it below.
Save £s when you book for 5 Music in the Round concerts or more at the same time. Find out more here.
FAURÉ Gabriel, Piano Quartet No.1 in C Minor, Op.15
Fauré’s glorious First Piano Quartet was composed over a four-year period (1876–79) and was given its premiere at the Société Nationale de Musique in February 1880. In 1883 Fauré revised the last movement, and it is in this version that the work was published. It is dedicated to the Belgian violinist Hubert Léonard (1819–1890). The first movement opens with a stirring unison string theme punctuated by syncopated piano chords, contrasted with a more lyrical second idea. The Scherzo begins with pizzicato chords over which the piano traces a melody of sparkling delicacy. Roles are reversed in the Trio section – the piano supplying the accompaniment to a theme of ravishing beauty and refinement presented by the strings. The slow movement was said by Fauré himself to be a lament for the sudden ending of his engagement to Marianne Viardot (one of Pauline Viardot’s daughters) – expressed through music of eloquent, passionate restraint. The finale is both exciting (with the dotted rhythms of the opening theme) and radiant (the arching second theme), crowned by a conclusion of unquenchable ardour.
Nigel Simeone ©
FARRENC Louise, Nonet in E flat, Op.38
With the first performance of this Nonet in 1850, Louise Farrenc achieved her greatest success as a composer – so much so that as a result she was able demand (and to get) a teaching salary for her job at the Paris Conservatoire that was the same as that paid to her male colleagues – a remarkable coup in the middle of the nineteenth century.
The premiere took place on 19 March 1850 at the Salle Erard and the ensemble was led by a brilliant young prodigy: Joseph Joachim – still in his teens but already an artist who was in demand all over Europe. Coincidentally, the violin has some unusually florid moments in the Nonet, including a cadenza at the end of the first movement. More remarkable, though, is the skill with which Farrenc shares the musical argument throughout the instruments, though it’s not surprising when we note that she was an accomplished composer of orchestral works including three symphonies, the last of which had been played in Paris a year earlier, in 1849.
Given the quality and originality of this music, it’s puzzling that Farrenc is not better known. As well as having to battle with prejudice against her gender, she had another issue to face: for composers to enjoy really big success in nineteenth-century Paris they needed to write operas, and Farrenc’s interests lay entirely in instrumental music. Still, the Nonet was greeted with tremendous enthusiasm, though her music lapsed into obscurity after her death in 1875. In the last twenty years or so Farrenc has enjoyed a well-deserved revival, with recordings of all her major chamber and orchestral works.
The Nonet is in four movements and has the combination of melodic inventiveness and charm that music by lesser composers often lacks. With echoes of Beethoven, Schubert and Spohr, this is the work of a serious and gifted musician who has a genuinely individual style. The fluency with which the violin cadenza merges seamlessly into the end of the movement is a mark of this. The rather Schubertian opening to the slow movement reveals a superb melodist, and the plucked strings and spiky interjections at the start of the Scherzo – and the rampaging tune that eventually emerges – are vastly appealing and characterful. After a slow introduction, the finale feels easy-going but makes considerable demands on the players.