Catoire: Morceaux, Opp. 2, 10 & 12; Préludes, Opp. 6/2, 17, 34/3,

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Catoire
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Morceaux, Opp. 2, 10 & 12; Préludes, Opp. 6/2, 17, 34/3,
PERFORMER: Marc-André Hamelin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67090
Marc-André Hamelin, unusual among world-class virtuosi, has based his recording career to date on neglected and unfamiliar repertoire (Alkan to Eckhardt-Gramatté, say). His latest disc runs true to form. Russian-born of French parents, Georgy Catoire (1861-1926) linked several generations: he studied in Moscow with Liszt’s pupil Karl Klindworth and himself became a harmony pedagogue at the Conservatoire – his most famous pupil was Kabalevsky. Though he wrote some orchestral works, this programme reveals a natural miniaturist whose music resounds with echoes (or anticipations) of Scriabin, Rachmaninoff and Medtner.

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Fans of those composers will not be disappointed by Catoire – he doesn’t seem a major discovery, but this is charming, formidably accomplished stuff. Even if the individual personality remains elusive, the first of the Op. 10 Morceaux is a gem, and the later Chants du crépuscule are haunting explorations of Scriabinesque chromaticism. Yet Catoire seems the sort of pianist-composer who’s fated to remain a ‘pianists’ composer’. For all their wealth of lyrical expression, his Morceaux require a formidable technique – they’re more difficult than they sound, a parallel case, perhaps, to Henselt in an earlier generation. Therein, doubtless, lies their fascination for Hamelin, who gives impeccably stylish and sympathetic readings, as if he’s been playing them since the cradle. Probably he has. Calum MacDonald