The great French composers Fauré and Franck have generally been cast as total opposites, but in fact they had much in common. Neither were really men of the theatre, nor were they natural symphonists, nor were they flashy orchestrators in the Berlioz or Rimsky-Korsakov tradition. But both cultivated what the French call ‘intériorité’, which one could translate as ‘intimacy’, though this loses the sense of deep reflection, even of transcendence, immanent in the French term. Finally, as it turned out, the last works of both were string quartets. Recorded together here, these beautiful final works demonstrate a thorough maturity of spirit and talent in both composers.
Franck’s quartet breaks new ground, particularly in the complex structure of the first movement. The discourse is also shot through with sudden silences, as though questioning the propriety of the whole enterprise—silences whose force was surely not lost on the young Debussy, who a few years later was to claim silence as one of his most fruitful discoveries. The String Quartet in E minor by Fauré is almost backward-looking in its modal tonality, and a model of ‘intériorité’.
Winner of the prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Chamber Music in 2007, the Dante Quartet is known for its imaginative programming and the emotional intensity of its performances. The group was founded in 1995 at the International Musicians’ Seminar at Prussia Cove, Cornwall. This is its first recording for Hyperion.