Dukas and Decaux

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Dukas and Decaux
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Dukas and Decaux
WORKS: Piano Sonata in E Flat Minor; Clairs de lune
PERFORMER: Marc-André Hamelin (piano)


Symphonic in scope, Dukas’s four long movements present pianists with an unusual challenge. The music doesn’t show off technique, but it’s nonetheless fiendish to play, and unless delivered by a thinking virtuoso it sounds rather unspectacular. A clear case of

‘send for Hamelin’.

From the start with its deep bass, soulful melody and smouldering middle, Hamelin has found the way to a kind of excitement that is redoubled by making it all hang together so well. Dukas’s range of reference is wide: the opening movement boils up like late Schubert, the Scherzo has Schumannesque agitation and harmonic flavour, and the finale’s turns from struggle to radiance echo César Franck. But the detail, full of exuberant rhythm and quirky progressions, is unmistakably personal, as is the rigorous focus

on ultimate goals – a compelling

and at times thrilling experience

in Hamelin’s hands.

Abel Decaux’s four pieces –

more or less all this career organist ever wrote – include haunted dreamscapes, truncated explosions, and harmonies that never resolve. There is a flavour of Debussy’s

more austere preludes, even of ‘La cathédrale engloutie’, yet the music, composed 1900-07, predates them.

This is edgy stuff, played with tenderness and flamboyance, atmospherically recorded.


Robert Maycock.