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Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Paul DUKAS (1865-1935)
Complete Piano Music: Piano Sonata in E flat minor (1901) [46’34]. La Plainte, au loin, du faune (1902) [5’18]. Variations, Interlude et Finale sur un thème de Rameau (1902) [18’48]. Prélude élégiaque (1909) [4’31].
Chantal Stigliani (piano).
Rec. at L’Atelier Philomuses, Paris, on February 18th-22nd, 2002. [DDD]

NAXOS 8.557053
[75’31]

The young pianist, Chantal Stigliani, is a pupil of the renowned Yvonne Lefébure. She shows a remarkable affinity for the music of her homeland in this excellent release (the quality of both playing and recording belie the super-budget price tag).

Dedicated to Camille Saint-Saëns, the Piano Sonata is a remarkable piece (Dukas was intensely self-critical, and would not let anything less into the public domain that did not reach his high standards). At over three quarters of an hour’s duration, it is a mini-marathon for any player. Its language is of an almost Beethovenian concentration at times.

The shadow of César Franck seems to fall over some of the writing, particularly in the organ-like left-hand passages. Stigliani has a strong sense of rhythm which lends a certain inevitability to proceedings: she only lets herself down with her broken octaves, which can lack depth of sound and a sense of purpose. She is less at home with the simplicity of the slow movement, and the shallow recording does not help matters.

The ‘Vivement’ third movement may well help to explain the paucity of performances of this piece. It is supremely difficult, and unfortunately there is a touch of the typewriter to Stigliani’s efforts. It is important to realise that there is also lyricism in this music, but here the effect is more disjointed than anything else. Things only improve towards the end of the movement, where fragments are juxtaposed with chords.

The Finale is an interesting piece, with hints of Ravel (around 6’06 is close to the climax of Jeux d’eau), not to mention a Lisztian march.

Stigliani comes into direct competition with Margaret Fingerhut on Chandos (CHAN8765) at full price. Both performances are perfectly accepatble, but whet we really need is a major player to take this piece under his/her wing.

The other major work is Variations, Interlude et Finale sur un thème de Rameau. The theme is charming, with a distinct French Drawing-room air about it. Right from the first variation, though, Dukas recontextualises his material, making it his own within a more perfumed setting. The’Interlude’ which separates the eleventh variation from the Finale displays its Impressionist credentials before a jaunty finale. Stigliani provides a convincing interpretation of a little masterpiece.

Two other pieces are included. In the title of La Plainte, au loin, du faune, the reference to Debussy is obvious, and the piece is indeed close in ethos to Prélude de l’après-midi. It is played with great sensitivity here. Last, but not least, the Prélude élégiaque’s Impressionist canvas also holds clues as to Messiaen’s musical forefathers (especially towards the end). Stigliani holds the rarefied atmosphere well. Recommendable, then, especially given the price.

Colin Clarke



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