Fauré: Piano Music

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COMPOSERS: Gabriel Fauré
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Fauré: Piano Music
WORKS: Piano Works: Thème et variations; Valse-caprices Nos 1 & 2; Nocturnes Nos 5, 6 & 13; Ballade pour piano seul
PERFORMER: Angela Hewitt (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA67875

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Take a French composer with a contrapuntal bent, whose music requires a rigour, poise and nuance akin to that of a ballet dancer. Then choose a pianist, such as Angela Hewitt, whose feel for all these qualities is a given. The result is an exquisite Fauré recital.

Hewitt has framed this selection with Fauré’s two most substantial solo piano pieces: first, the Thème et variations, whose inspiration is Schumann’s Etudes symphoniques – though ultimately, having worked through a wide spectrum of light-fingered shades, Fauré chooses a reflective and almost pious coda. Last is the solo version of the early Ballade; and in between, the two flirtatious Valse-caprices plus three of the most substantial Nocturnes.

Fauré was influenced by early church music, and his works are permeated by modal inflections and the intertwining of contrapuntal voices. Seductive charm and deep yet veiled sensuality create an elusive soundworld where heart-on-sleeve sentiment would do serious damage.

Hewitt’s clarity, though, is exemplary. The purity and strong, supple backbone of her playing lets Fauré’s inventive genius, his extraordinary sensitivity to colour, harmonic shading, texture and eloquence, shine on its own terms. This is evident in the high spirits of the first Valse-caprice, and the tragic oration of the Nocturne No. 13.

Above all, though, Hewitt can draw us into Fauré’s unique bubble and simply envelop us in his cool, self-sufficient gorgeousness without necessarily giving a thought to any of the above.

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Jessica Duchen