ALBUM TITLE: Solitaires
WORKS: Ravel: Le tombeau de Couperin; Messiaen: Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus – excerpt; Alain: Prélude et Fugue; Dutilleux: Sonata
PERFORMER: Kathryn Stott (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: BIS-2148 (hybrid CD/SACD)
There is much to enjoy in this enterprising programme. Jéhan Alain’s Prélude et Fugue, written at 24, is testimony to what French music lost with his death only five years later. The harmonies of the Prélude are beautifully controlled and the Fugue reconciles the form with a remarkably progressive language – less than 90 seconds long, but full of character. The other three, better known works on the disc give us an interesting conspectus of French piano music between 1914 and 1948.
In Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin, Kathryn Stott not only pays tribute to the Classical impulses behind the work but also honours its more powerful moments: in the ‘Menuet’ the climax, as played here, reminds us that all the movements are dedicated to friends the composer lost in the First World War. I do think though that, at the end, the trill has to be cleared, as in the orchestral version.
Stott’s fingers are well up to the virtuosic demands of the ‘Prélude’ and ‘Toccata’, as they are to those of the works by Dutilleux and Messiaen. She is particularly attentive to dynamics and chording, and her phrasing throughout is never less than convincing. My only slight reservation in a couple of places concerns tempos: the opening of the Dutilleux Sonata is a touch careful compared with the recording by the composer’s wife for whom the piece was written, and likewise in the excerpt from Vingt Regards, ‘Le baiser de L’Enfant-Jésus’, Stott at times crosses the very fine line between rapture and solidity. The recording quality is superb. Roger Nichols