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Marguerite Long plays Fauré
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)

Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor Op. 45 (?1885-86)
Jacques Thibaud (violin), Maurice Vieux (viola) and Pierre Fournier (cello)
Ballade Op. 19 (1881)
Société des Concerts/Philippe Gaubert
Impromptu No. 2 in F minor Op. 31 (1883)
Impromptu No. 5 in F sharp minor Op. 102 (1909)
Barcarolle No. 6 in E flat Op. 70 (1896)
Nocturne No. 4 in E flat Op. 36 (1884)
Nocturne No. 6 in D flat Op. 63 (1894)
Les Berceux Op. 23 No. 1
Ninon Vallin (soprano)
Marguerite Long (piano) with musicians as noted above
Recorded Paris, 1930-40
BIDDULPH LHW 035 [70.52]


One of the most prestigious figures in French pianism, Marguerite Long was a formidable presence at the Paris Conservatoire. The extent to which she could legitimately claim authority in certain works has been a moot point for many years but this Fauré selection allows us the opportunity to judge her contribution to the literature in the round, as chamber colleague, with orchestra and in the solo literature.

The Piano Quartet in G minor is a wartime recording Ė and I believe it took place around the time that Thibaudís son was killed in battle. His colleagues were the leading French violist, Maurice Vieux (what a Sinfonia Concertante they would have produced together), and Pierre Fournier. Thibaudís very precise downward portamenti are entirely characteristic and bewitching, though his tone lacks the fuller weight of his recordings in the 1910s and 1920s. Though at some moments one may be inclined to doubt it, the tonal unanimity in unison string passages is still entirely convincing and the performance sensitively shaped, the Scherzo being especially fluent and fast before it sinks into a veil of impressionism, illuminated by Vieuxís tortuous viola line. In all this Long plays her part but in the Adagio one can detect a certain hardness in her tone, certainly in comparison with the string statements; sheís also quite straight in her phrasing, and not quite on the same level of nuance or subtlety as her colleagues. But she does much better in the finale where her bustling vigour adds to the impatient drive and triumphant direction of the music.

Itís interesting to listen to Gaubertís direction of the Ballade, one of the few works by Fauré for which I have little time. The mass portamenti and limited vibrato of the orchestra of the Société des Concerts offer a window into performance style in Paris c.1930. The solo works offer rather greater musical value. The F sharp Impromptu is athletic and crisp with fine voicings whilst the sixth Barcarolle is full of affectionate charm. Her E flat Nocturne (No. 4) is certainly individual. Itís brisk and determined with little lyrical breadth and some strange rubati. Thereís plenty of style, certainly, and an assurance that borders on aggression. But as the Testament releases of the magnificent cycle of Fauré recordings (transferred from Ducretet-Thomson LPs from the early 1950s) by Germaine Thyssen-Valentin have shown there are more ways of playing him than Long is prepared to countenance. Thyssen-Valentinís is an immeasurably more convincing and subtle reading and as the Sixth Nocturne shows sometimes Long is guilty of rather mechanistic phraseology, lacking intimacy. We end with the delightful Vallin-Long reading of Les Berceux.

The notes concentrate rather more on the music than the musicians but the transfers are generally good. Thereís quite a bit of surface noise retained on the Sixth Nocturne and on the Quartet generally but I can well imagine that the shellac was somewhat compromised. Itís an admirable selection of Longís work and though I do find her uneven and occasionally problematic her recordings deserve a place on the shelves of anyone devoted to Fauréís piano music.

Jonathan Woolf



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