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Name of Work

Fauré, Gabriel (1845-1924)
Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor, Op. 45 (2007)

Movements:
Allegro molto moderato
Allegro molto
Adagio non troppo
Allegro molto

Performances:


Oct 21, 2007



Joseph Genualdi, Viola
Rami Solomonow, Viola
Katinka Kleijn, Cello
Meng-Chieh Liu, Piano


Oct 22, 2007



Joseph Genualdi, Viola
Rami Solomonow, Viola
Katinka Kleijn, Cello
Meng-Chieh Liu, Piano

FAURÉ-Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor, Op. 45

Composed 1885-1886.

Premiered on January 22, 1887 in Paris.

BACKGROUND
One of the immediate results of France's humiliating defeat under the wheels of the Prussian juggernaut in 1870 was a groundswell of French national pride as soon as the Germans returned home to their Ratskellers and their politics. In the musical arena, this patriotism led to the founding of the Société Nationale de Musique in 1871 by Camille Saint-Saëns and several of his colleagues as a forum for the promotion and performance of French works (and to redress the pervasive influence in France of Germanic Wagnerism). The Société became an important force in French music, releasing Parisian musical culture from the domination of the splashy operas of Meyerbeer and the frothy entertainments of Offenbach to allow for the revival of the Classical genres of symphony, concerto and chamber music. Late in his life, Gabriel Fauré told a Parisian journalist that "the truth is, before 1870, I would never have dreamt of composing a sonata or a quartet."

The first chamber work that Fauré contributed to the Société's programs was the Violin Sonata No. 1 of 1876, whose excellent reception at its premiere in January 1877 encouraged him to carry on with an even more ambitious project that he had begun immediately after completing the Sonata -- the C minor Quartet for Piano, Violin, Viola and Cello. It was while Fauré was revising the score of the C minor Piano Quartet and preparing it for publication in 1883 that he seems to have become interested in providing it with a sequel.

No documentary evidence exists concerning the gestation of the Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor, though the work was apparently Fauré's principal creative occupation during 1885 and 1886. Faure gave the following explanation of his inspiration: "In the slow movement of my Second Quartet, I recalled a peal of bells we used to hear of an evening drifting over to Montgauzy [near Foix, in southwest France, where he lived as a boy] from a village called Cadirac whenever the wind blew from the west." He then went on to give a summary of his philosophy of his art as embodied by this exquisite movement: "Such sound gives rise to a vague reverie, which, like all vague reveries, is not translatable into words. It often happens, doesn't it, that some external thing plunges us into thoughts that are so imprecise, they're not really thoughts at all, though the mind certainly finds them pleasurable. Perhaps it's a desire for something beyond what actually exists; and there music is very much at home." The first definitive date that can be attached to the Quartet is that of its premiere -- January 22, 1887 at the Société Nationale.

MUSIC
The Piano Quartet No. 2 opens with a sweeping unison string theme of almost symphonic breadth whose initial gesture -- a heroic octave leap -- is followed by a series of short, tightly compressed motivic cells. The piano's repetition of the main theme leads to the introduction of the quiet, lyrical second subject by the viola. A brief reference to the main theme serves as the transition to the exposition's third melody, a smoothly arching strain presented by cello and viola in octaves. The development section concerns itself first with permutations of the main theme and then with the arching theme before a sonorous unison return of the principal subject marks the beginning of the recapitulation. The viola again gets to sing its lyrical subsidiary theme, but the arching melody is omitted in favor of the anxious coda based on the main theme which brings the movement to a dying close.

The Scherzo, according to Jean-Michel Nectoux in his study of Fauré, "casts a spell in its headlong career through a night illuminated by mysterious flashes: we are reminded of Schubert's Erl King, Berlioz's Faust and Franck's Accursed Huntsman." The movement, possessed of a kind of demonic force that is rare in Fauré's writing, is formed around the alternation of two contrasting themes: the first is an agitated, rhythmically unsettled piano melody of scale steps given against a background of plucked strings; the other is a smooth string motive derived from the opening movement's second theme.

The finale, thematically rich and somewhat prolix, resumes the impassioned energy of the opening movement. A main theme of aggressive triplet rhythms is announced by the strings above a restless piano accompaniment. Other complementary thematic ideas follow: a lyrical but syncopated strain in the piano; a piano subject in hammered chords (the formal second theme); and a smooth, expressive melody in long notes in the viola and cello. The development section is based largely on the opening triplet motive. The exposition's four themes are heard again in the recapitulation before a brilliant coda in the sun-bright key of G major brings the Quartet to its victorious conclusion.

Program notes by Dr. Richard E. Rodda

Performance date: October 21 & 22, 2007



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