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CD: Crotchet


Gabriel FAURÉ (1845 - 1924)
Ballade pour piano & orchestre [14:12]
Berceuse pour violon & orchestre [3:33]
Élégie pour violoncelle & orchestre [6:58]
Concerto pour violon & orchestre [15:10]
Romance pour violoncelle & orchestre [3:45]
Fantaisie pour flûte & orchestre [4:54]
Fantaisie pour piano & orchestre [14:54]
Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabédian (violin)
Henri Demarquette (cello)
Juliette Hurel (flute)
Jérôme Ducros (piano)
Orchestre de Bretagne/Moshe Atzmon
rec. 2005, Rennes. DDD
TIMPANI 1C1172 [63:59]
Experience Classicsonline

Great idea Timpani - the complete Fauré for solo instrument and orchestra. The soloists are sensitive to the idiom and the orchestra is sounding more voluptuous than it has for years. Good also to see Moshe Atzmon at the helm after he seemed to disappear from view following a brief moment in the limelight on LP in the 1970s.  
The lovely Ballade - which I learnt through the CBS Casadesus Bernstein version - exemplifies the recording philosophy and practice. The Decca-fruity sound image is favoured with little distance between listener and instruments and with orchestra similarly vivid - enjoy. The Ballade sounds even more like a cross-generation mix of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov; the latter a surprise given that this was written in 1879-81. Fauré writes in melodious and bejewelled and liquidly flowing numbers in what amounts to a cool miniature concerto. The ideas never veer into the commonplace - it's a sensational theme and Fauré will not let it go. Serenity, seduction and a sigh in equipoise. The Berceuse is a smilingly irresistible brevity with a touch of the miniature Tchaikovsky and Dvořák about it. The rocking melody is all Fauré. Delightful. The Elégie for cello is more sombre - a soulful reflection that at 3:02 morphs into Mozartean grace yet with a Tchaikovskian accent. The single movement Violin Concerto was recorded a couple of decades ago on ASV. It dates from the same vintage years as the Ballade and Berceuse. It's the longest piece here by a small margin and one is aware at the start that Fauré is marshalling and saving his resources and invention. There is a feeling of going through the romantic motions pleasing though this is. He even references his contemporary, Saint-Saëns who also wrote some concise delights such as the Caprice Andalou and the Havanaise. The style is again related also to that of Tchaikovsky in his Violin Concerto and predicts the mood and feel of the Glazunov Concerto. It has more drama than we customarily expect of Fauré but it is done in a polished and pleasing way. The little cello Romance, in Büsser's caring and sensitive orchestration, sidles in with an ingenuous ingratiating smile and a melody of undulatingly tuneful contour. It's one of three very short concertante pieces on this disc. The romantic and then elfin-flighty flute Fantaisie played by Juliette Hurel is in an orchestration notable for its self-effacing fidelity from the orchestral master who wrote one of the world's great sea-poems Tombeau de Chateaubriand, Louis Aubert. The very late Fantaisie for piano and orchestra makes for a pleasing symmetry - the disc ending and starting with a similarly planned piece for piano and orchestra. It was written at the end of the Great War and although interesting it lacks the sustained seduction of many of the pieces here. In that sense it makes a welcome change but do not expect the Ballade Mark II. It's still supremely melodic though the orchestration by a hand unknown to me (M Samuel-Rousseau) seems skeletally sparse and less inspired than those by Aubert and Büsser which trick out opp. 69 and 79. Nevertheless it rises to a fine majestic climax.

The recordings were made in a benign acoustic in Rennes in September 2005.

This is a really lovely, well annotated (Hanna Crooz) collection, cogently assembled and full of discoveries that will produce new friends for adventurous listeners.

Rob Barnett


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