WORKS: Ballade; Berceuse; Élégie; Violin Concerto; Romance; Fantaisie for flute and orchestra; Fantaisie
PERFORMER: Juliette Hurel (flute), Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabédian (violin), Henri Demarquette (cello), Jérôme Ducros (piano); Orchestre de Bretagne/Moshe Atzmon
CATALOGUE NO: 1C1172
Full marks to Timpani for the idea of a disc of Fauré’s works for soloist and orchestra, covering some 40 years of the composer’s life. Criticisms of his orchestration began early on, with that of the Violin Concerto, premiered in 1880, being dubbed ‘dull, monotonous and ineffective’.
For ears excited by Bizet and Chabrier, this may have been true, but the performance here of the surviving movement of the Concerto, with Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabédian an eloquent and accomplished soloist, proves that the orchestration fits the music extremely well. There are longueurs, and Fauré made more sophisticated use of the themes at the end of his life in the String Quartet, but it’s still an attractive piece.
Whether or not in response to criticism, in the latter part of his life he preferred to leave the orchestration of his music to others. The efforts of MM Büsser, Samwuel-Rousseau and Aubert are tasteful without, in my view, improving noticeably on Fauré. In any case, the main strengths of this music lie in the melodic material and, increasingly over his lifetime, in the intriguing harmonic detours.
Pianist Jérôme Ducros captures the Ballade’s idiosyncratic blend of languor and virtuosity, though some of the piano’s middle range is recorded rather intrusively. More particularly he is a strong advocate for the Fantaisie, one of the host of underplayed works from Fauré’s old age. Roger Nichols