FAURÉ Barcarolles (Endres)
Michael Endres’s first recorded foray into Fauré (pun intended) stands out from the pack in several respects. In contrast to the slightly dry, ‘top of the keys’ transparency typifying Fauré specialists of the French school such as Jean Doyen, Grant Johannesen and Jean-Philippe Collard, Endres builds his sonority from the bottom up, singing out the Barcarolles’ melodic lines with a warm, penetrating legato that is never weighty. Consequently, No 1’s waltzing charm becomes more wistful and intimate than usual, while the pianist intelligently contours the chromatic intricacies in No 2’s central climax. His subtle way of lingering on an unexpected cadence or uncovering an inner voice conveys a probing impression throughout No 3 that markedly differs from more straightforwardly lilting performances, such as the one in Delphine Bardin’s Fauré Barcarolles cycle (Alpha, 9/10). Compared to the way in which Germaine Thyssens-Valentin unfolds No 4’s descending imitative phrases in suggestive pastels (Testament, 8/02), Endres underlines them in primary colours.
While the Fifth Barcarolle’s elusive harmonic game plan can easily withstand Endres’s broad, nuanced interpretation, the cross-rhythmic phrasing somehow loses the very momentum generated in comparably straightforward performances by Robert Casadesus and Vlado Perlemuter. Likewise, his deliberate, tonally refulgent No 6 is antipodal to Thyssens-Valentin’s expressive discretion, yet proves equally plausible. Furthermore, Endres’s approach effectively illuminates No 8’s volatile shifts in mood and dynamics. His apt inflections in No 12 transpire within the parameters of a steady, anchoring pulse. Is it my imagination, or does the left-hand ostinato foreshadow Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Send in the clowns’? In all, the mastery and individual imprint that distinguishes this splendidly engineered release is only to be expected of Michael Endres, whose large and wide-ranging discography may be one of the piano world’s best kept secrets.