Gabriel FAURÉ (1845–1924)
Complete Nocturnes
No. 5 in B flat [7:46]
No. 13 in B minor [7:04]
No. 1 in E flat minor [6:09]
No. 6 in D flat [9:19]
No. 9 in B minor [4:08]
No. 4 in E flat [6:20]
No. 11 in F sharp minor [4:49]
No. 2 in B [5:39]
No. 12 in E minor [5:23]
No. 3 in A flat [4:00]
No. 10 in E minor [5:04]
No. 7 in C sharp minor [9:03]
No. 8 in D flat [3:19]
Stefan Irmer (piano)
rec. Ehem, Ackerhaus der Abtei Marienmünster February 2010

By the time Fauré came to write his nocturnes the genre had developed from the yard-sticks put down by Chopin and Field. The French composer’s nocturnes are broadly more muscular and vigorous with not as much of the moonlit tranquility, though there is both beauty and melancholy in each piece. The booklet notes for this issue, written by the pianist, make a great deal of how Fauré’s style developed as he wrote these 13 pieces, so it is all the more puzzling that he has decided to play them out of order, as detailed above. It’s also bizarre that there seems to be no rhyme or reason to this, beyond the very generic ”compositions from different creative periods are placed in relation to one another, thus going beyond developmental processes and emphasising what all the pieces have in common.” Fine, but couldn’t a similar goal have been achieved by a chronological approach? My ear couldn’t pick up any particular logic to the programming: I didn’t especially feel that I had been led into the works by a different path, or that I was discovering new things that I wouldn’t otherwise have picked up. If others sense what I missed then I’m open to correction.

German pianist Stefan Irmer is good at picking up the dark side of each work, though there are times when he overdoes it: the dark intensity of No. 11, for example, written as an elegy for one of Fauré’s recently deceased friends, tends to overwhelm the beauty. He is at his finest in the earlier works where he is happier to let the music speak for itself. Nos. 2 and 3, for example, sound luminous and transparent, with especially open playing for No. 2. Nos. 4 and 5 also flow much more happily then, say, No. 10 which feels heavy at first with even a hint of lumbering. I felt that Irmer’s playing was rather uniform throughout the disc, without enough light and shade to differentiate between each piece, but there are certainly moments of great beauty, and the dying chords of No. 8 are a fine way to end. The sound quality is up to MDG’s usual top class standard.

Simon Thompson

Irmer’s playing was rather uniform throughout but there are certainly moments of great beauty, and the dying chords of No. 8 are a fine way to end.