Classical home listening: Penderecki, Fauré and more

The late Polish composer’s chamber music is a treasure trove for the Tippett Quartet; Malcolm Martineau concludes his stellar Fauré series; and to the river with Radio 3

• The many musical personalities of Krzysztof Penderecki (1933-2020), whether vigorous modernist or heartfelt post-Romantic, shine in the chamber music he wrote across his lifetime. The Tippett Quartet’s new album, Penderecki: Complete Music for String Quartet/ String Trio (Naxos), recorded at St John the Evangelist Church, Oxford, in 2020, demonstrates this Polish composer’s versatility and should be on every quartet’s repertoire list.

Penderecki himself was an accomplished violinist, an asset you sense in the way he explores the sonic possibilities of violin, viola, cello. The First Quartet (1960), with its rattles, taps and dry, percussive pizzicatos, shows his debt to his European avant-garde comrades Xenakis and Berio. No 2 (1968) is more integrated, organic, building up to a showy climax and with a distinct sense of humour. Penderecki wrote a string trio before attempting his Third Quartet, “Leaves from an Unwritten Diary” (2008), lyrical and melancholy, with his short, two-movement Fourth Quartet following in 2016. This last may have an unfinished feel – did he plan to write more? – but the Tippett Quartet’s album, in every respect, is whole and rewarding.

The Complete Songs of Fauré, Vol.4

The Complete Songs of Fauré (Signum Classics) has reached its conclusion with Volume 4. With recordings dating back to 2014, the pianist Malcolm Martineau (who made a similar long journey with the complete songs of Poulenc) has gathered some of the best UK singers, all convincing in French repertoire: John Mark Ainsley, Lorna Anderson, Isobel Buchanan, John Chest, Sarah Connolly, Iestyn Davies, Ann Murray, Kitty Whately.

Fauré’s songs, composed between 1861 and 1921, have a weightless, pure quality. As the liner notes observe, hearing these perfect creations as recordings, without the distractions of “dress, gesture or facial exercise” is a liberation. The cycle La Bonne Chanson, Op 61, a favourite of Proust but disdained by Debussy and Saint-Saëns, is the centrepiece, sung with grace, finesse and variety by Kitty Whately. Baritone John Chest performs Fauré’s final four-song cycle, L’horizon chimérique (1921), with the kind of elegance and cool passion this music demands: a fitting close to an excellent series.

• Stuck at home? Travel with Petroc Trelawny on his Yorkshire River Journey. All next week he will present his popular morning show from different locations – fell, moorland, abbey – near the rivers Ure, Ouse and Humber. Breakfast: Monday to Friday, 6.30-9am, Radio 3.

Contributor

Fiona Maddocks

The GuardianTramp

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