Après un rêve: A Fauré Recital
The French-Canadian pianist Louis Lortie is nothing if not versatile. His Beethoven sonatas (1/11) demonstrated a thoughtful approach to canonic repertory and a willingness to move beyond received wisdom. He’s also that rare pianist whose Chopin and Liszt speak with equal authority and conviction. And when he turns to French music, it’s always a treat. Now Chandos brings us another spécialité de la maison: the first instalment of a series devoted to Gabriel Fauré.
This lovingly conceived programme begins with Lortie’s own transcription of the Pavane, capturing the delicate colours and wistful melancholy of the orchestral original. For some, the disc may seem transcription-heavy, with the composer’s own piano versions of Pelléas, including a movement transcribed by Cortot, and Percy Grainger’s 1939 arrangement of the song ‘Après un rêve’. But these are accorded all the care and insight brought to the original works.
Lortie shapes the fluid, expressive lines of the Nocturnes Nos 4 and 6 as though to remind us that Fauré was one of the great masters of the French mélodie. In the more texturally varied Barcarolles, Lortie gives full rein to the composer’s harmonic palette without making us wonder where things are going.
The seldom-encountered Nine Preludes (1910) rounding out the disc are of special interest. This series of jewel-like miniatures exhibits characteristics not usually associated with Fauré. The virtuosity of Preludes Nos 2 and 5, for instance, is not far from Rachmaninov, while No 6 is remarkable in its polyphonic rigour. My favorite, however, is No 3, where ambiguity gives way to ecstatic outpouring, here rendered with the utmost refinement of touch.
The Chandos engineers have expertly captured the sound and nuance of Lortie’s Fazioli. Long an advocate for a paradigm shift in programming recordings, Lortie avoids the dry lexicographic approach in favour of arranging works with an eye towards contrast and variety of affect. This philosophy, particularly successful here, combined with Lortie’s deeply personal yet naturally expressive piano playing, whets the appetite for further releases in the series.