ALBUM TITLE: Piano Works
WORKS: Piano Works, Vol. 1; Poeme des montagnes, Op. 15; Tableaux de voyage, Op. 33; Théme varié – fugue et chanson, Op. 85
PERFORMER: Michael Schäfer (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: GEN 87083
In a letter to Chausson, Debussy pleaded with him to go easier on what he called ‘les dessous’ – that is, the inner parts of the texture – so as to allow the main ideas to flourish unhampered. I suspect no one ever had the courage to admonish d’Indy along similar lines. A pity. Time and again, promising tunes are swamped by busy-busy figuration, and unfortunately in Michael Schäfer’s hands this figuration is often too insistently present. Add close miking, resonant acoustic and some generous pedalling, and the result is frequently cluttered and strident.
I feel not much could be done with the early Poème des montagnes, which drifts aimlessly from one vaguely characterised section to another, but some of the brief Tableaux de voyages could benefit from a lighter, more humorous approach and more affectionate phrasing.
The best music probably comes in the late Thème varié – fugue et chanson. But, curiously for a composer who wrote so well in this final decade for chamber ensemble, the textures are unenterprising (or seem so here), lacking those shafts of sunlight that Franck knew how to throw across a landscape, let alone his gift for writing tunes. Roger Nichols