Fauré: Ballade, Op. 19; Pelléas et Mélisande; Fantaisie, Op. 111; Masques et bergamasques

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COMPOSERS: Faure
LABELS: Assai
ALBUM TITLE: Fauré: Ballade, Op. 19; Pelléas et Mélisande; Fantaisie, Op. 111; Masques et bergamasques
WORKS: Ballade, Op. 19; Pelléas et Mélisande; Fantaisie, Op. 111; Masques et bergamasques
PERFORMER: Emmanuel Strosser (piano); Orchestre de Picardie/Edmon Colomer
CATALOGUE NO: 222122

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It is hard to envisage more dedicated and tasteful companions for a journey through the sometimes less than inspiring landscapes of Fauré’s music than the Picardy orchestra and pianist Emmanuel Strosser. First stop in this hour-long tour is the popular Ballade for piano and orchestra dating from Fauré’s placid early middle age in 1881. Mellifluous doesn’t begin to describe it. Strosser keeps within the boundaries of refinement that define Fauré’s idiom in the Ballade but manages successfully to stir up the odd pocket of latent passion tucked away in neglected corners. We jump forward to 1919 for Masques et bergamasques, a masterly exercise in cultured piffle played with admirable seriousness and commitment by the Picardy forces. The same annus mediocris saw the publication of Fauré’s Fantaisie for piano and orchestra. Strosser is again an able interpreter, lucidly picking his way through the digressive twists and turns. Leaving the best till last, the CD finishes with Pelléas et Mélisande, the incidental music Fauré wrote for the premiere of an English translation of Maeterlinck’s play in 1898. Again the orchestra is all one could wish for, precise without coldness, simple without false naivety. And Fauré, for once, deserves them.

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Christopher Wood