Minnaar: Fauré Piano Music
This recital (for it is precisely that; a DVD of the event, expertly filmed in January 2016, accompanies the SACD) by the Dutch pianist Hannes Minnaar seems the equivalent of strolling through an engaging exhibition of the works of an artist you thought you knew but the magnitude of whose gifts, you now realise, you hadn’t entirely grasped. It is expertly curated, with a deeply personal selection of representative artworks spanning Fauré’s career, from an early, insouciant Romance sans paroles from his student days to the 13th and last Nocturne of 1921, with its unconventional dissonances and voice-leading reflecting Fauré’s state of mind shortly after the death of his mentor, Saint-Saëns, and as deafness eventually overcame him. Though presented chronologically, this loving selection was clearly chosen to show each piece to greatest advantage, sometimes creating striking juxtapositions. The engineers have captured the immediacy and dimension of Minnaar’s beautiful, unforced sound in all its wealth of detail.
The Thème et variations is delivered with a rare sweep and cohesion, its urgency paradoxically never seeming rushed, but organically flowing. The rarely encountered Nine Preludes, Op 103, unfold with gem-like precision and sparkle, each a perfectly wrought microcosm. But it is the 13th Nocturne that is both the crux and culmination of the programme. Its painful quest through desolation erupts into lacerating figurations. Minnaar negotiates this occasionally awkward writing with skill, creating a palpable emotional impact.
Comparison with the first release of Louis Lortie’s projected complete Fauré series (Chandos, 11/16) confirms the validity of diverse approaches to the French master. Minnaar’s identification with this unique realm of music is complete and his deeply felt interpretations shine with clarity and infinite nuance. If Fauré’s piano music has eluded you until now, these performances may provide the key. If you’re already a devotee, a very pleasurable experience awaits.