WORKS: Masques et bergamasques; Ballade, Op. 19; Dolly Suite; Pavane, Op. 50; Fantaisie, Op. 79; Prelude to Pénélope; Élégie, Op. 24
PERFORMER: Kathryn Stott (piano), Richard Davis (flute), Peter Dixon (cello); BBC Philharmonic/Yan Pascal Tortelier
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9416 DDD
Like Ravel and Debussy, Gabriel Fauré was a master of orchestration, but, like the latter, he was often happy to delegate at least part of the task to one of his colleagues. The reason for this lies partly with the fact that his music’s ‘colour’ depends more upon the harmonic texture than instrumentation. This is to be expected given that Fauré composed primarily for his own instrument, the piano, and it comes as no surprise that all but two of the works presented here started life either as works for that instrument or accompanied by it.
From the heady, Wagnerian prelude to Pénélope to the exuberance of Masques et bergamasques, this thoughtful collection testifies to the variety of harmony, and hence colour to be found in Fauré’s music. In the Ballade, Kathryn Stott reinforces her position as one of the finest Fauré interpreters of her generation and Peter Dixon is exquisitely heart-rending in the Élégie. Despite an exquisite tone in the Fantaisie, however, Richard Davis’s mannered reading leaves me distinctly unconvinced, while the ‘Berceuse’ of the Dolly Suite is pervaded by a tangible air of impatience. Although the sound is generally impressive, bass textures occasionally verge on the woolly.