Faure: Complete Music for Piano

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Faure
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Complete Music for Piano
PERFORMER: Kathryn Stott, Martin Roscoe (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66911/4 DDD
Fauré was one of the most subtle and profound composers of piano music (not to mention chamber works and songs). It’s often said he was untouched by his times, which is only true to an extent; it would be fairer to say that having been formed by what he knew, like any composer, he developed and refined his personal language irrespective of fashion.

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A limited selection of Fauré’s piano music played by Kathryn Stott is still available on Conifer. She made this new recording of his entire keyboard output last summer. It’s a tremendous achievement. The playing is highly accomplished – Stott seems to have no technical problems – and the liner notes are helpful and thorough.

Yet I cannot warm to these performances because they seem too obviously calculated, without charm or warmth. When Stott allows her fingers just to get on with the job, as in some of the more study-like pieces, the Preludes and Impromptus, she’s fine; her articulation is strong and athletic and her dynamic range impressive. But in the more extended, poetic pieces, like the Barcarolles and Nocturnes, she has a way of catching her breath before each phrase and putting feeling in inverted commas, which imposes an inappropriately public aspect on the music.

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Stott’s playing is not as perfumed as Paul Crossley’s on CRD, nor as forthright as either Jean Doyen or Jean Hubeau on Erato. The French treat Fauré more robustly than the English, and Doyen and Hubeau are inclined to be heavy-handed. This Hyperion recording is clear, the piano neither too far away nor too close, but its sound is a bit cold. Fauré’s music surely suggests a more intimate atmosphere and certainly a less beefy, brilliant kind of piano. Recently a disc of his songs appeared using a 1921 Erard with marked success. Perhaps British pianists and their recording companies could give some thought to seeking out more appropriate kinds of instrument. Adrian Jack