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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
The Fauré Album: Violin Sonata No. 1 in A, Op. 13 (1875);. Romance, Op. 28 (1877); Pelléas et Mélisande (1898) – Fileuse (‘Spinning Song’), Op. 80 No. 2 (transc. Auer) [2’18]; Sicilienne, Op. 78 [3’32]. Berceuse, Op. 16 (1878-9) [3’35]. Sérénade toscanne (transc. Ronchini); Andante, Op. 75 (1897); Masques et bergamasques (1920) - Clair de lune, Op. 46 No. 2 (transc. Périlhou); Morceau de lecture à vue; Piano Trio, Op. 120a (1922); Après une rêvea (trans. Eguchi).
Gil Shaham (violin); Akira Eguchi (piano); aBrinton Smith (cello).
Rec. The American Academy & Institute of Arts and Letters, New York City, on July 7th-8th and 14th-15th, 2003. DDD
CANARY CLASSICS ATM-CD-1239 [78’05]

 

Fauré’s First Sonata is a magnificent creation, one that requires the utmost sensibilité from its players. Akira Eguchi opens proceedings rather carefully, and it has to be admitted that we enter a different world when Shaham appears, and the emotion really starts to flow. This is an ardent view – whenever the music threatens to relax, sudden passionate outbursts occur. Despite the slightly nervous start, Eguchi emerges at the end of the movement very much as Shaham’s equal. This is a partnership that is continued in the Andante, where interaction between the protagonists becomes almost magical. The flow is lovely – not so lovely is Shaham’s sniffing; something which recurs frequently. The Scherzo, which, astonishingly sounds like Copland to begin with, is playful and confident - listen to how Shaham digs in at 2’10, or his elfin pizzicati. The flighty, elusive violin line of the finale is very well done, yet where the ‘quasi presto’ of the tempo indication has gone to is beyond me. But Shaham plays authoritatively. It is easy to believe this is just his type of music and that this entire endeavour is a labour of love. He is unafraid to place his heart firmly on his sleeve.

The other major work on the ‘album’ is the late, and predominantly reflective, Piano Trio, Op. 120, where Shaham and Eguchi are joined by mellow-toned cellist Brinton Smith.

The Andantino is hyper-beautiful, almost whispered in its intimacy. Fauré’s total compositional security shines through throughout – by this stage in his life he knows exactly what he wants to say, and exactly how to say it. This movement (track 14) is the highlight of the disc. Yet there is much to admire also in the rest of this work, from the way the players invoke the aching nostalgia of the first movement without descending into indulgence, or the infectious rhythms of the finale.

In between comes a garland of miniatures. The Romance, Op. 28 finds Shaham revelling in the decorative line, and he and Eguchi enjoy the contrastive, active second section; ‘Fileuse’ (Spinning Song) and ‘Sicilienne’ (from Pelléas et Mélisande) are both given loving performances. Shaham’s accompaniment to the piano in the former is remarkably nimble, his tone silken in the latter. Similarly the Berceuse is simply lovely; how effectively Shaham can ‘whisper’ a line!

Sérénade toscanne was written in the aftermath of his broken engagement and is suffused with melancholy pain; similarly, Clair de lune has a veiled atmosphere. The Andante, Op. 75 speaks of greater things than these other miniatures; it is possible that it was intended for a Violin Concerto that was never finished. It certainly rises to fair emotional heights, and Shaham is very alive to its expressive compass. The Morceau de vue (‘sight-reading piece’, written for a competition) features subtle harmonic shadings that make one regret its brevity at less than two minutes.

Après une rêve, arranged for piano trio by Eguchi, acts as an encore after the substantial Piano Trio. It is a tender and thought-provoking way to close the ‘album’ and Smith’s cello playing is heartrendingly beautiful.

The recorded sound captures all of the instrumentalists’ subtleties; the piano tone coming off particularly well, and retains the intimacy of the enterprise.

A very special disc, and one to return to often.

Colin Clarke



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