The Ébène Quartet Plays Fauré

Listen to the opening of Gabriel Fauré’s Piano Quintet No. 1 in D minor, Op. 89 and you might get the sensation of floating. It’s the musical equivalent of an out-of-body experience. This is a piece which seems to start somewhere up in the clouds, with sparkling, lighter-than-air piano arpeggios ushering in an expansive but intimate melody. You might be reminded of the childlike innocence of the In Paradisum from Fauré’s Requiem, which was written around the same time in the 1890s. This searching opening melody begins with the second violin. Gradually, the other voices enter, flowing in unison through the glassy sonic expanse.

The music which follows has an amazing way of continuously flirting with new keys without ever completely settling down. For example, listen to this passage later in the first movement. Or listen to this lushly beautiful section of the second movement which modulates with the freedom of a contemporary pop song. At the end of the second movement, the first violin tries to initiate one more modulatory adventure before getting pulled back into the movement’s final resolution.

Fauré, a student of Camille Saint-Saëns and the teacher of Maurice Ravel and Nadia Boulanger, occupies an interesting and sometimes neglected place in music history. The First Piano Quintet, dedicated to violinist Eugène Ysaÿe, was premiered in 1906, around the time Fauré became director of the Paris Conservatory.

Here is a great concert performance by the Ébène String Quartet with pianist Eric le Sage:


  • Gabriel Fauré, Piano Quintet No. 1 in D minor, Op. 89: the Ébène String Quartet’s 2013 recording with pianist Eric le Sage iTunes, Amazon
  • the Ébène String Quartet’s complete discography: iTunes
  • Eric le Sage’s complete discography: iTunes

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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