César Franck: Piano Quintet in F minor, M7
Gabriel Fauré: Piano Quintet n° 1 in D minor, opus 89
Mami Shikimori (piano), Wihan Quartet: Leos Cepický, Jan Schulmeister (violin), Jakub Cepický (viola), Michal Kanka (cello)
Recording: Church of Saint Vavrince, Prague, Czech Republic (March 24 and 25, 2018) – 68’21
Nimbus Alliance NI 6397 (Distributed by Naxos of America) – Booklet in English
Established in 1986 in the Czech Republic, the Wihan Quartet has gone on to be one of the most vibrantly decorated string quartets. Appearing throughout numerous worldwide festivals, the quartet’s discography has cornered the market on works by Beethoven, Dvorák and Janácek. Now the group has opened the door for a fifth member to record two riveting quintets by César Franck and Gabriel Fauré.
“Unshakable, salient articulation” is what the artists’ take of Franck’s forlornly Quintet is all about. The Wihan Quartet and Mlle Shikimori are sharply attuned to the notes. First violin’s acuity has a mighty edge, consistently razor-sharp while fretful chromatic ruminations, stemming from second violin (ref: “Allegro non troppo ma con fuoco”), are fashionably controlled. The episodic “Finale”, underscored by Mami Shikimori’s keyboard, shows her rarified firmness that draws into lines of permeability within all strings. The undulating ebbs and crests add dramatic heft and angst with a final answer: The Wihan Quartet ensures the listener doesn’t wander off at any time.
Turning to Gabriel Fauré’s own Quintet lightens up the sobriety after a weighty Franck. Particularly noticeable is the feathery and flouncy execution of Mlle Shikimori’s arpeggios that immediately surface upon the opening “Molto moderato”. The music is less-exhaustive, hearkening to “passion’s attempt at an overthrow”...Wihan torments Fauré with occasional “breaths” to alleviate pressure, yet throw backs surmount with no end in sight. As if to give a respite from the mildly undecided first movement, the floating “Adagio” casts an emphatic plea upon the first violin. The conversation is frank and direct...no time is wasted. Economical. Again, Mlle Shikimori is the epicenter of a dramatic backdrop. Sparkles of hope rest inside the “Allegretto moderato” with the pianist’s percolating ivory strikes, an indirect and synchronous cry to the Dolly Suite. Likewise, Mami Shikimori twinkles away at bashful triplets, giving a lovely lilt to the closing commentaries.
Mami Shikimori is the glue that holds the Quintets together in a very tight and thoughtful manner. This allows the Wihan Quartet to capitalize on their own brand of embellished punctuations. An irresistible winner at best.