Musici Ireland at the National Concert Hall, 14 August 2014
With this performance, Musici Ireland continues its summer lunchtime concert series in the John Field Room, the string trio of Joanne Quigley (violin), Beth McNinch (viola) and Grainne Hope (cello) are today joined by distinguished guest artist Finghin Collins (piano) to perform a richly-contrasting pair of piano quartets, Mozart’s Quartet in E-flat, K. 493, and the Quartet in C minor, Op. 15, by Gabriel Fauré. These two works, written nearly a century apart from each other, span an enormous range in terms of style, texture and colour. The contrast serves as an engrossing study in itself, whilst clearly indicating the ensemble’s serious musical ambitions.
Mozart’s E-flat Piano Quartet opens with a flurry of ideas before the main theme is established as a kind of exchange between violin and piano, around which the group coalesces, propelling the work forward. What this also establishes is the idea that the form itself is one that can host any number of possibilities, as the work expansively ranges across an array of different keys, while also playing off varying combinations, such as piano in dialogue with the strings, piano and violin against lower strings, or all instruments together in a rich contrapuntal weave. The group accents this material with adept suavity, including some lovely interplay between Collins and the string players. They find particular depth in the slow middle movement, the lower strings especially projecting a meditative stillness in the darker passages.
After the open, concerto-like passagework of the Mozart, the powerfully vivid sonorities demanded by the Fauré Quartet make for quite a contrast. Whereas in the Mozart one was aware of the care with which the players, pianist especially, kept balance with each other (with all the instruments differing in varying ways from the ones Mozart originally wrote for), such consideration becomes less of an issue and the power and brilliance of the Steinway piano comes into its own. The ensemble brings out this music with a wonderful sense of concentration. There is much to enjoy, such as the crispness with which the shifting moods of the second movement are delineated, or the wonderful sense of suspension in the gentle Adagio that follows. The work ends in a rapt mood of excitement, buoyed up by Fauré’s sense of boundless energy; appropriate also for what has been a fascinating and enjoyable journey for audience and (it would seem) players alike.
Mozart – Piano Quartet in E-flat, K. 493
Fauré – Piano Quartet in C minor, Op. 15