Movement 1: Molto agitato e con fuoco
Movement 2: Andante, non troppo lento
Movement 3: Allegretto grazioso
The slow second movement presents a soulful, song-like theme in C sharp minor. Fauré seems to preside more closely over the unhurried triple time and the instrumentation itself. Tritonal opposition of non-cadential dominant sevenths and ninths enhance the ‘sidestepping’ effect of key changes, perhaps reminding one that the youthful Fauré had pursued Wagner performances to Bayreuth and to England in company with Messager in the eighteen-eighties, and suggesting that Wagnerian technique (not generally very apparent in Fauré’s stylistic make-up) might nonetheless be a productive subliminal influence for the perceptive Fauré disciple. This movement remains predominantly introverted, ostensibly heading towards a climax but then relaxing into the idyllic retrospection of an unexpected F major episode (ushering in a change of time signature). The dominant pedal note underpinning this passage conveys a certain quasi-rustic wistfulness which again suggests the prayer-like sensibility of certain quiet Dvorák chamber movements. Subsequent features include string unison writing (typical of Fauré) at moments of heightened intensity, ingenious combination of the themes from both foregoing sections (and time signatures), and a reprise of the secondary paragraph, heard now a semitone lower than before. The movement reaches an unhurried conclusion in the key of C sharp major.
The Quintet’s third and last movement plays a time-honoured ‘is-it-a-scherzo/intermezzo-or-a-finale?’ game, launching itself with amiable simplicity as another would-be rustic conception over a musette-like pedal note. As this proceeds it begins to admit a touch of melodic ‘neo-Baroquery’. This, in studiedly perverse combination with the homespun wistfulness of the initial conception, seems almost to suggest the improbable intrusion of some synthetically conceived public school song. More to the point, it conveys a shrewdly misleading impression of much more episodic and unassuming structural thinking than is actually at work, as does the Schumannesque cleanness of the ensuing episode’s dialogue between melodic piano octaves and punctuating harmonic strings. Soon the main theme burgeons momentarily in E major. The thematic material of the first movement now becomes more prominent. Some ingeniously resourceful combination of these ideas with those of the slow movement ensues (embracing a mischievous false recapitulation in the key of F major, not F sharp) before a radiant statement of the inspired second subject from the work’s first movement bursts forth in A major. This, however, is not allowed to gain ideas above its station, and nor are we as near the end of the work as its appearance seems to suggest. The generalized example of Fauré and the specific one of Dvorák’s A major Piano Quintet seem to compete amicably (and convincingly) for the limelight. A recapitulation beset by agreeable sleights-of-hand extends the canonic and other possibilities of the music in an F sharp major coda which is in no hurry to end the proceedings but which, thanks to the memorably distinct nature of the principal themes, never threatens to outstay its welcome.
from notes by Francis Pott © 2001