> Faure compilation : Plasson CZS5748402 [Il]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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HOFFNUNG for CHRISTMAS? an ideal Christmas present for yourself or your friends.
Books posted the day the order is received

Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)

Pelléas et Mélisande: Prelude; The Spinning Girl; Sicilienne; Mélisande’s Song *; The Death of Mélisande
* Frederica von Stade (mezzo-soprano)
Masques et Bergamasques: Overture; Pastorale; Madrigal; ‘The Sweetest Road’†; Minuet; Clair de lune; Gavotte; Pavane.
Shylock: Song†; Entr'acte; Madrigal†; Epithalame; Nocturne; Finale
† Nicolai Gedda (tenor)

Ballade for piano and orchestra - soloist Jean-Philippe Collard (piano)
Élégie for cello and orchestra – soloist: Paul Tortelier (cello)
Berceuse for violin and orchestra – soloist:Yan-Pascal Tortelier (violin)
Fantaisie for piano and orchestra – soloist: Jean-Phillipe Collard (piano)
Les Djinns for choir and orchestra - Ensemble Vocal Alix Bourbon
Caligula for women’s voices and orchestra – Ensemble Vocal Alix Bourbon
Pénélope Prelude
Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse conducted by Michel Plasson
Recorded in Halle-aux-Grains Toulouse. CD1: June 1980 and CD2 June 1979
EMI 2 CD CZS 5 74840 2 [137:42]


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Fauré wrote few orchestral works and so EMI are to be congratulated in assembling this fine 2 CD set of reissues. Michel Plasson and his Toulouse players capture the sophistication and delicate refinement of this lovely music. The Pelléas et Mélisande and Masques et Bergamasques suites are well known. The spellbinding limpid beauty of ‘The Spinning Girl’ and the catchy dance rhythms of the Masques et Bergamasques Gavotte, for instance and, of course, that haunting Pavane. But also on CD1 we have the unusual bonuses of vocals in both suites: Frederica von Stade’s lovely wistful and achingly sad ‘Mélisande’s Song’; and Nicolai Gedda’s beautifully enunciated and shaped ‘The Sweetest Road’ and ‘Clair de lune’ - both ravishing creations. Added to these riches is the less well-known Shylock (1889) music. The opening ‘Song’ opens with shadowy string figures lightened by harp filigree before the entry of Nicolai Gedda’s thrilling ardent tones. The ‘Entr'acte’ is cast in heroic, chivalric mode unusual for Fauré but highly effective for its contrasting tender passages. The short ‘Madrigal’ is another delightful romantic solo from Gedda with a refined light-as-air accompaniment. The melodious ‘Epithalame’, with its bittersweet violin solo, is dreamily introspective while the ‘Nocturne’ is another of Fauré’s magical evocations. The ‘Finale’ is another gem richly orchestrated with intriguing operetta-like martial figures and interesting pizzicatos.

CD2 is devoted mainly to concerto-type and choral material. Jean-Phillipe Collard is the soloist in Fauré’s Ballade for piano and orchestra (1881). It was originally composed for piano only. Liszt declared it too difficult to play! Many moods are encompassed over its 14 minute span ranging from the intense to the playful. Collard rises well to its overt and subtle challenges. Collard is also the soloist in Fauré’s late work, his Fantaisie (first performed in 1919) an autumnal work fully imbued with Fauré’s nostalgia and wistfulness but with moments of turbulence too. Cellist, Paul Tortelier is the eloquent soloist in the mournful Élégie (1880) that also has moments of wistfulness and anguish; and Yan Pascal Tortelier makes the lovely lyrical Berceuse, for violin and orchestra, with its familiar delicate melody, sing sweetly.

The main item in the CD2 programme is the incidental music Fauré wrote for Caligula by Alexandre Dumas (author of The Three Musketeers). Dumas’s play was about the cruel, tyrannical Roman Emperor of the title. The suite opens with imposing majestic fanfares and a proud, bouncy march contrasted with more relaxed, more intimate material. A choral interjection, with heavy percussive ostinato seems to speak of the might of the Empire before their tone moderates to more tender pliant material. The women then tenderly sing the evocative ‘L’hiver s’enfuit’. The first ‘Melodrama and Chorus’ begins in sweet nostalgia before the tempo picks up to a joyful dance-rhythm that dips in and out of the shadows while the chorus sensitively picks up its alternating light and shade accordingly. Shadows close in on the second of the ‘Melodrama and Chorus’ movements with the women’s voices in a typical Fauré mood of sweet dejection. The ‘Air de danse’ is one of Fauré’s most beautiful melodies, one can imagine a dainty dance by young Roman maidens. The Ensemble Vocal Alix Bourbon also star in Fauré’s somewhat stormily evocative Les Djinns. The djinns were an order of spirits rather lower than angels which could transform themselves into humans or animals. The concert is completed by the Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse playing Fauré’s Prelude to Pénélope, his opera about the return of Ulysses, the king of Greek mythology, to his faithful wife Penelope. This is narrative music par excellence suggestive of the grieving sad lonely wife dreaming of the heroic horn call that will announce the return of her hero.

This enterprising programme mixes Fauré’s more celebrated works (in more complete versions than normally recorded) with much less familiar material. Michel Plasson, his soloists, and the Toulouse players perform these lovely, wistful works with devotion and sensitivity. Unhesitatingly recommended.

Ian Lace

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