Although understandably less well known than the "new" music of his contemporaries Ravel and Debussy, Faure's thoroughly Gallic oeuvre is in a class all its own. Yes, his Bereceuse, Op. 16 and Sicilienne, Op. 78 - heard here in their original form for piano & violin - are instantly recognizable to anyone even vaguely familiar with French classical music, but how many of us can claim familiarity with his violin sonatas, cello sonatas, piano quartets and string quartet? The silence you just heard is very telling.
I said "understandably less well known" for the simple reason that Faure's music is a stupefying mixture of accessibility and cold indifference. Now don't misunderstand me: Faure's music isn't "cold" by any stretch of the imagination, it's just that his compositions speak so clearly to the depths of our souls... and then turn away as if to say, "You wouldn't understand what I'm trying to say anyway..."
It's a maddening paradox that is both infuriating and infatuating! Sir/Madame, have you ever felt the same way about that very special someone in your life? Yes, you have... and you loved it!
It's true that you never know just where you have Faure, but one thing is certain: once you've experienced the musical illusions of this mercurial French magician, you will find yourself returning often to the place where he mesmerized you with his magic.
Recorded in the late 1970s - at the very pinnacle of the LP age - these performances are by far the most satisfying and convincing I've ever heard. All the musicians are French and they play as if their very lives depended on your positive response... which was overwhelmingly positive in my case! The recorded sound is rich and open (with just the right amount of hall acoustic) and wonderfully airy around the instruments; I just can't imagine a more appealing sound picture.
I have heard many other French ensembles attempt to interpret "passions" and "mannerisms" into this music that would have troubled and deeply saddened the composer, thereby misrepresenting that which they were trying to ennoble. NOT SO HERE! Yes, these are passionate performances to be sure, but tempered with respect and that all-important (and thoroughly tasteful) French musical intellect.
For the same reason that the old 19th Century French garden roses are still popular to this day, you will find these performances of Faure's heavenly chamber music tasting as magnificent as a Loire Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for many enjoyable years to come.