The early-2000s renaissance of Marcos Valle was a delight for his fans, especially those who had long held onto hopes that they'd hear more to rival his late-'60s and early-'70s prime. Curiously quiet after a 2005 live album, though, it seemed that Valle had gone back into hibernation. He returned with a bang, however, on 2010's Estática, which is nearly everything his fans had been looking for. The songwriting is bright and memorable, the production style unifies the best of his sunny late-'60s style and his innovative early-'70s prime, and Valle's strong personality is at the center of it all. (The latter is especially welcome, since he'd seemed relatively detached on some of his 2000s records.)
These readings of Fauré's two late piano quintets by the Schubert Ensemble of London are paradoxical. The group's performances are strong-willed and purposeful in the outer movements, particularly in the C minor Quintet's ever accelerating Finale, yet soft-focused and sensuous in the central slow movements, especially the D minor Quintet's deeply dolorous Adagio. The tone changes from robustly incisive to sweetly sonorous, the ensemble from vigorously muscular to smoothly refined, and the rhythms from sharply accented to softly undulating.