The Proust Album
Hahn: Piano Concerto*; Premiere valses – Ninette; Nocturne – Sonate de vinteuil; plus works by Chaminade, Debussy, Fauré, Franck, Gluck, R Strauss, Wagner and Ysaÿe
Shani Diluka (piano); *Orchestre de Chambre de Paris/Hervé Niquet
Warner Classics 9029667625 86:56 mins
The centenary of Proust’s death in 2022 will probably and rightly spark widespread tribute. This album is doubtless inspired by the best intentions. In choosing relevant music, the pianist Shani Diluka has responded to the names of composers mentioned by Proust, whether in his life or in his great novel. But really names alone are not enough. To reduce Wagner to a 90-second piano piece is disappointing when we might have an excerpt, even with voice and piano, from Act III of Tristan, which disturbed Proust by its ‘Vulcanic joy’. Likewise Fauré’s influence could be better explained through one song from La bonne Chanson, which Proust adored, protesting ‘the songs I don’t like are the early ones’.
As for the absence of any of Hahn’s mélodies, this is quite inexplicable. Instead we have his Piano Concerto, premiered by Magda Tagliaferro in 1931 with Hahn conducting – some nine years after Proust’s death. It’s also some way from being his best music, with its tiresome insistence on the opening four-note motif; also unhelpful is Diluka’s over-generous pedalling, compared with Tagliaferro’s largely unpedalled jeu perlé in her 1937 recording. Another problem is the overall moderato effect of tracks 4-17, which come to border on the soporific. Finally, Diluka is one of those pianists who prefer their own dynamics to the composer’s; and bar 12 of L’Isle joyeuse, lacking the low A, should have been retaken.