Chabrier: Dix pièces pittoresques

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Dix pièces pittoresques
PERFORMER: Angela Hewitt (piano)
Such vivacious, tender, immediate and shockingly original music would be in every pianist’s repertoire, if only Chabrier had made it lie under the hands as naturally as Debussy or Chopin. The over-modestly titled Pièces pittoresques are really his Preludes, ten varied sound poems which search the soul and come up with not angst nor rage, but a unique combination of joy, vulnerability, and an excitable nature that verges on impatience, as if life were far too short to deliver all its promises.


To do this, they give the ear priority over the convenience of the fingers, creating their array of tone colours with a constantly changing touch, staccatos and legatos and quick repetitions, sometimes all together. Hewitt, rightly placing the 40-minute set at the recital’s centre, is at her best here, teasing out the yearning harmonies and shy cadences with a persuasive rubato. In the bolder pieces elsewhere, such as Impromptu and Aubade, the energy can turn brittle and the rhythms spiky, although the lack of warmth is partly down to an acoustic which stresses the piano’s brightness. But the quiet episodes come up trumps. Robert Maycock