Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
The Études Tableaux Op.33 (1911)
The Études Tableaux Op.39 (1916/17)
Joyce Hatto (piano)
Rec. Concert Artist Studios September 1996 and 1998 Op 33 and 1999 Op 39

This item has been withdrawn from sale as it is no longer thought to have been played by Joyce Hatto.

I reviewed the Op.39 Études-Tableaux in an alternative coupling on CACD 9218-2 harnessed to Hatto’s powerful performance of the Second Concerto. They have now been detached and reissued coupled with the Op.33 set to form a logical group. I’ll reprise my remarks concerning the later set and add my views on the former, which are quite consonant. Those admirable qualities that proved so stimulating and convincing in Op.39 are equally so here. In the F minor Op.33/1 her control of rhythm is admirable, the relaxation acutely judged, the drive one of purpose, surety and digital command. There is great nobility and naturalness of phrasing in the second of the set, a flowing ease and in the Grave No.3 she charts its rise and fall with chordal space; one listens in admiration at the way both hands draw out melody lines, evoking with clarity the melancholy lyricism at the heart of it. Hatto has a knack for characterisation and this is best exemplified by the way she brings out the almost avuncular sturdiness of the D minor and the whimsical directness of the E flat minor to which in particular she adduces drama and treble runs, charting a sure course for its mock serious conclusion. Her tone is rounded, unselfconscious in its application. There’s real bounce in the E flat major, a perfectly weighted rhythmic fleetness with martial left hand and a real command of the miniature tone poem life of the Etude. Equally there are some bewitching sonorities in the G minor; here Hatto reveals herself a master of Rachmaninov’s syntax and of its colouristic potential, etching its communing romanticism and unease with distilling understanding and generosity. In the C sharp minor there is power and great grandeur of utterance, hieratic, solemn, the left hand lines never generically subservient, always audible and pointing the rhythm.

When I reviewed the Op.39 set coupled with the Concerto I listened to Kissin’s recording, which similarly coupled them – though he doesn’t play 3, 7 and 8. I listened for points of comparison and distinctive individuality between the young lion, Kissin, and the pianist who first came to prominence in the 1950s. How telling the vision and sensitivity of the older musician, how fallible and heedlessly impetuous the young lion sounds measured against her. In every case Hatto emerges not simply triumphant but magisterial. Her conception, her sound world, her sense of narrative and her powerful individuality are components of a wholeness of understanding of these works. The opening C minor shows the disjunctions between them – he is a touch steely and hard, clearly taking more obviously to heart the injunction Allegro agitato. Hatto is notably quicker, more decisive; more mature both architecturally and tonally. One can hardly deny Kissin his superbly weighted tone in the A minor [no. 2] – it’s truly marvellous but equally it’s put to the service of a rather etiolated tempo and Kissin’s directional sense never matches his tonal beauty. As a result he emerges rather directionless, both melodically and harmonically. Hatto’s greater speed is accompanied by what it’s best to characterise as a vertical sense – harmonic and lyric. Maybe she can’t match Kissin at some moments for sheer concentrated beauty of tone but the music makes infinitely more narrative sense in her hands. She drives powerfully through the F sharp minor Tableau without ever losing rhythmic control and without pressing too viscerally hard. In the B minor [No. 4] which Rachmaninov said was to do with a Fair scene, one can admire Kissin’s golden halo of sound – but also note that it blunts the energy and decisiveness of the music. But both he and Hatto are good here at the joviality and teem of the music. In the Appassionato of No. 5 in E flat minor she is again quicker, more glinting and also more inward with great weight of left hand tone through which she never forces. She is not as obviously romanticised as Kissin but our narrative-pictorial sense is far more vividly engaged by her performance. And so with the Little Red Riding Hood allegro of No. 6; Kissin is malign and theatrical with powerful ascents and climaxes and his dynamics are powerful. She’s actually far, far wittier (his rather wintry sense of humour is seldom indulged) and impish and actually more tempestuous – also incidentally warmer and considerably more imaginative. She has the wisdom and maturity to know how this Tableau works, as Kissin does not. The lento seventh coalesces pictorial elements with absolute seamlessness and drive and the Allegro moderato [the Eighth in D minor] has rhythmic power in profusion but observes that moderato direction acutely. The lyric curve is never compromised in this excellent performance. She brings a wonderful and enlivening sense of colour and controlled animation to the last Tableau – the chordal flourishes especially. At the same basic tempo as Kissin she manages to etch things more sharply, to conjure a greater sense of meaning – in short to play with a greater ranger of nuance and understanding.

Once more this is a splendid achievement; clarity and emotive commitment are the hallmarks of Hatto’s credentials. She is simply not to be found wanting in this repertoire.

Jonathan Woolf

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