After twenty-six years at the forefront of British music performance, the Schubert Ensemble is firmly established as one of the world's leading exponents of chamber music for piano and strings. In 1998 its contribution to British musical life was recognised by the Royal Philharmonic Society which presented the group with the Best Chamber Ensemble Award.
Fauré was taught by Saint-Saëns, a lifelong friend, and Fauré in his turn taught Ravel. He broke new ground: in fusing the pre-baroque modes with the traditional tonal system, he created a fluid sense of constantly shifting harmony which is inimitably his own. The fluidity is apparently effortless, but if you listen closely to his Piano Quintets you will hear great drama, tension and profound emotion, all skilfully demonstrated.
‘Chamber music', wrote Fauré, ‘really is... true music and the most sincere expression of a genuine personality.' And in his chamber music he achieved something remarkable.
'...It is the quartets that I have grown to enjoy so much. I must give a lot of credit to the superlative performances here." "... the recorded sound is excellent, as is the entire production. Again and again I have returned to it over the past month and enjoyed every aspect of the performances...' American Record Guide
'...they [Schubert Ensemble] obviously have a deep affection for his [Faure] music, which is evident in every bar they play."
"Key to their success is their refusal to treat Faure like some fragile china doll requiring ever careful handling, instead giving his music red-blooded readings, with incisive playing....Anyone who finds difficulty in approaching Faure's chamber music would do well to start here; the utter joy the Schubert Ensemble find in this music may well confound expectations.' International Record Review
'...Faure's music truly lives under the Schubert Ensemble's fingers. The troubled First Quintet's full textures are beautifully balanced, harmonic and melodic contrasts are expertly worked, and the musical lines breathe and soar. Then the Second Quintet, written in a pre-retirement demob-happy state of light-heartedness, sounds as fresh as fresh can be. The players male neatly rapid work of the virtuosic passages and beautifully draw out the progressive harmonies and textural variety.' Classic FM Magazine
'It is hard not to be beguiled by the charms of Faure's First Piano Quintet when played with the kind of understanding displayed by The Schubert Ensemble. ...they [The Schubert Ensemble] judge its slow-burning splendour masterfully. The long-breathed melodies of the of the exquisite slow movement are hypnotic, and they mix intensity with panache in the final movement. They are similarly convincing in the late C minor Quintet, with its air of freedom, having been composed in the wake of Faure's retirement as direct of the Paris Conservatoire. Certainly the scampering scherzo (Allegro vivo) has the character of a man rejuvenated... The Schubert Ensemble capture this carefree spirit, and show their experience in their control of the slowly increasing pace of the playful final movement. William Howard brings a suitably fleet-fingered lightness of touch to the shyly virtuosic piano part, and each of the string players combines beauty with incisiveness.' BBC Music Magazine