Michel Dalberto: Fauré Piano Works
In a charmingly self-effacing booklet note, Michel Dalberto relates how his embrace of Fauré’s piano music, despite an early affinity for some of the chamber works, was not complete until the Swiss tenor Hugues Cuenód suggested they explore the songs together. One can well imagine how, with such an inspiring guide, the full dimension of Fauré’s genius became apparent.
Recorded live at a concert at the old Paris Conservatoire this past January, Dalberto plays the largest of the piano works, the F sharp Ballade and the Thème et variations, interspersed with an Impromptu and five of the Nocturnes, spanning the years from 1877 to 1921 and presented in roughly chronological order. The distinctive sound of Dalberto’s 1899 Bechstein has been expertly captured by Little Tribeca.
This Ballade could be a page torn from the intimate journal of a voluptuary, moving from wistful languor to the throes of ecstasy, accompanied finally by a symphony of birdsong. Riding luxurious waves of sound, Dalberto never loses a thread of Fauré’s intricate polyphony. The serious C sharp minor Theme and Variations, here prefaced by the somewhat later Nocturne, Op 74, in the same key, is no less lovingly handled. Fully exploiting the Bechstein’s plangent sound, Dalberto strikes just the right balance between passion and understated pathos, making this work a veritable prism of fleeting emotion.
Of the smaller pieces, Dalberto is particularly impressive in the three late Nocturnes: No 9, with its ominous echoes of Liszt’s melodrama Der traurige Mönch, the desolate No 11 and the anguished cri de coeur of No 13. Tortuous emotional bitterness, often verging on despair, makes these pieces difficult to fully inhabit. Dalberto does so with courage and conviction.
Among the outstanding recordings of Fauré’s piano music in recent years, including Hannes Minnaar’s (Challenge Classics, 2/17) and the first disc in Louis Lortie’s series (Chandos, 11/16), Dalberto’s disc will take a proud place.