Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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A Recital of French Music
César FRANCK (1822-1890)

Prélude, choral et fugue (1884)
Prélude, aria et final (1886)
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

Six Preludes:
La cathédrale engloutie (Book I No X)
La Danse de Puck (Book I No XI)
Minstrels (Book I No XII)
La Puerta del vino (Book II No III)
Bruyères (Book II No V)
Feux díartifice (Book II No XII)
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

Étude en forme de valse Op. 52 No. 6 (1877)
Joyce Hatto (piano)
Recorded Concert Artist Studios, Cambridge, March 1996 and April 1998


I know that Joyce Hatto spent some productive time in the company of Alfred Cortot, in much the same way as she had with Moiseiwitsch. Doubtless she absorbed much from these two masters. This latest Concert Artist disc bears all the hallmarks of the Frenchmanís kind of repertoire as it does Hattoís characteristic embodiment of tradition and modernity. Each time I sit down to a Hatto review I find myself commenting on the pellucid clarity of her passagework and her eloquent and undimmed technique. I do this again, without embarrassment, not simply because itís true but because it says something about her directness and honesty as a musician, her way of putting the composer above questions of the projection of the self. The precision of her touch is notable as well, as is her abstention from overuse of the pedal. All of these qualities inform her playing on this disc and I hope readers will forgive me contrasting her Franck playing with those two titans of yesteryear, Cortot (of course) and Petri. Egon Petriís American Columbia recording of the Prélude, choral et fugue is a particular favourite of mine (though not everyone shares my admiration).

In the Prélude Hatto takes a view almost equidistant between Cortotís impetuous and multiply voiced passion and Petriís absolute control. I say almost but she does rather incline to Petriís kind of clarity and explication rather than Cortotís surging emotionalism. In the choral one notices how Hatto holds back slightly, generating feeling through clarity, though I wonder about some of her rubati here. I suspect that she is injecting a note of doubt into the Gothic splendour Ė whereas Petri concentrates on architectural span and Cortot once more on colour and voicings and great drama. The fugue witnesses her outstanding clarity of entry points and considerable sheer excitement Ė the concluding peals are splendid. Cortot is more tensile and obviously affecting whilst Petri finds in the music something I think Hatto hints at in the choral, which is a brusque, unsettled and almost neurotic sound-world in which the concluding peals are ones of struggle overcome and not joyful, cyclic recognition. All these points of view mark independent and authoritative visions of the work.

The Prélude, aria et final dates from that annus mirabilis for Franck, 1886, in which year the Violin Sonata was written. Contrasting Hatto and Cortot here (Petri never recorded it as far as I know) one finds that she sounds rather plain in her opening statements but one notes further that she relies on tonal subtlety not great dynamic range to make her points. Maybe by the side of an oratorical performer such as Cortot she seems to lack fantasy and his brand of heart-stopping grandeur (one to which I repeatedly succumb) but her aria is attractively chaste at the same basic tempo as Cortotís, though his rhetoric is rather darker and more incisive than hers. I liked Hattoís taut finale; Cortot is capricious here, daring and theatrical, Hatto softer grained but very clear and managing expressive turns on a sixpence before her leoninely powerful conclusion. If I incline more to Cortotís performance one cannot deny Hattoís justness of perception or her cast iron technical reserves.

She also plays a selection of Debussy Preludes and convincingly so, of course. Thereís considerable chordal depth in her La cathédrale engloutie whilst La danse de Puck is fleet if less fantastical and glinting than say Michelangeliís. Minstrels is fluid and nicely characterised - Michelangeliís performance at the Vatican in 1972 was more visceral and vertical Ė and La Puerta del vino is gently veiled. Her Preludes are in general sensitive and attractively contoured and the concluding Saint-Saëns is a marvellous, and rare, opportunity to hear one of the seldom programmed Etudes. Cortot apparently told Joyce Hatto that it was "elegant and discreet" and she plays it with authoritative command and no little style.

Iíve greatly enjoyed this latest addition to the Hatto discography. Itís full of character and dedicated musicality and very attractively recorded as well.

Jonathan Woolf

see also JOYCE HATTO - A Pianist of Extraordinary Personality and Promise: Comment and Interview by Burnett James


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