It's the Roaring Twenties. That musical jack-of-all-trades, Sergei Koussevitsky, Director of Music with the Boston Symphony Orchestra for twenty-five years, commissions the orchestration of two world-famous works: "Pictures at an Exhibition" by Modest Mussorgsky and the "Études-Tableaux" by Sergey Rachmaninoff. And who does Koussevitsky choose for this task? Why, none other than the two great composers Maurice Ravel and Ottorino Respighi. Their orchestrations lay the foundations for numerous other arrangements of those works. More than 80 years later, Dirk Mommertz, a member of and pianist with the Fauré Quartett, has arranged both of these works anew – this time for piano quartet.
"A chamber-music ensemble, with piano and strings, is ideally suited to present the entire tonal spectrum," explains Dirk Mommertz. Violinist Erika Geldsetzer, violist Sascha Frömbling, cellist Konstantin Heidrich and Mommertz at the piano have been an entity for over 25 years now and are justifiably acknowledged as one of the most influential piano quartets in the world. They are renowned for branching out into new territory; they are not afraid of leaving the well-trodden path, so it comes as no surprise that the Fauré Quartett have recorded for the first time, and are about to release, their own arrange-ments of "Pictures at an Exhibition" and the "Études-Tableaux" on one album.
The mesh of relationships which binds Mussorgsky's composition of 1874 and Rachmaninoff's of 1911-1918 with Koussevitsky's commissions to Ravel and Respighi, now ends 150 years later with the Fauré Quartett in the 21st century. The versions for piano quartet bring to the works an unexpected palette of colours. They are flexible, yet dense; more tangible than when played by a whole orchestra, yet none the less thrilling – works possessing unique soul and intense colouring, with as-yet-unheard facets and turns; works that exhibit great spans of upheaval and fading tranquillity.