Dukas: Piano Sonata in E flat minor; La plainte, au loin, du faune; Variations, interlude et finale sur un thème de Rameau; Prélude élégiaque

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COMPOSERS: Dukas
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Piano Sonata in E flat minor; La plainte, au loin, du faune; Variations, interlude et finale sur un thème de Rameau; Prélude élégiaque
PERFORMER: Chantal Stigliani (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557053
There’s more to Paul Dukas than the popular Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Significantly more in depth and range, if not in quantity. His Piano Sonata, completed in 1901, might be described as the sonata César Franck never wrote. It’s a passionate and powerful work – almost a symphony for keyboard – demanding steely fingers and fiery temperament. Alas, it gets neither here, for Chantal Stigliani is a timid, cautious soul who seems barely equal to the task. She has neither the strength for a real fortissimo nor the stamina to sustain the composer’s overwhelming sense of momentum.

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The other big work, the Variations, interlude et finale which Dukas finished a year later, is less striking, though it covers a fascinating range of moods and musical styles, amounting to an impressive historical review, which culminates in a finale that is contrapuntally as gritty as late Beethoven. Again, the playing is, frankly, feeble, and the recorded sound oddly close and light, though not unpleasant. (Is the unidentified instrument French?)

The Prélude élégiaque of 1909 is adventurously exotic, languorous rather than sad, while La plainte… of 1920 harks back, as if in homage, to Debussy, and also reminds me of the second of Schoenberg’s Op. 11 Pieces, though harmonically sweeter.

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The performances are a sadly inadequate service to a fascinating composer. Adrian Jack