In his recent interview with Colin Clarke (Fanfare 35:1), pianist Anthony Spiri noted that he finds Gabriel Fauré’s music “of such a highRead more inspiration that [he] would even compare it with J. S. Bach.” Spiri’s devotion to Fauré is put to the test on this new recording, which features a collection of piano works written over the course of some 60 years. While Spiri’s skilled advocacy does not manage to elevate the French master all the way to the top of my pantheon of musical gods, this is without doubt one of the finest Fauré recordings I have ever heard.
There are two principal reasons for my conclusion. The first has to do with Spiri’s imaginative programming. I have to confess that, over the years, I have blown hot and cold over Fauré. While I find it unfailingly pleasing and interesting, there is a certain sameness to much of this music that, in my opinion, makes it akin to a fine wine that one drinks only on rare occasions and in small quantities. For that reason, the prospect of an entire recital devoted to Fauré has never appealed to me. Well, Spiri has somehow managed to assemble a collection of diverse and contrasting Fauré works, and his intriguing compilation of early (the Mendelssohnian Romances sans paroles and the seductive Ballade), mature (the Pièces brèves and the Barcarolle, op. 70), and late (the Preludes and the last two Barcarolles) works has managed to persuade me that 65 minutes of Fauré are not such a bad thing after all.
Even more importantly, Spiri’s pianism holds the listener’s attention with its remarkable fluency, intelligence, and honesty. It strikes me that Spiri’s success in this elusive music is owed in large part to his considerable experience as an accompanist to the stars, be they Bernarda Fink, Edith Mathis, Peter Schreier, Marjana Lipov?ek, or Angelika Kirchschlager. Like a great accompanist, Spiri has a remarkable ability to shine the spotlight on precisely what matters in these invariably busy and oftentimes gnarly scores. Also like a great accompanist, Spiri has the ability to clarify complex textures and adjust his tempo ever so slightly to allow for a luftpause, but never to the point where forward momentum is lost. But it also seems to me that Spiri’s extensive collaboration with the aforementioned singers has taught him a great deal about the mysterious art of cantabile playing, for like a great singer, Spiri knows exactly how to make Fauré’s intoxicating melodies soar and breathe across bar lines.
Another thing this recording has going for it is excellent sound. Oddly enough, almost every recording of Fauré’s piano music I know suffers from poor sound, from Germaine Thyssens-Valentin’s 1950s recordings of selected works to the nearly complete survey of piano works recorded by Jean-Philippe Collard for EMI some 25 years ago. Spiri’s recording, on the other hand, is expertly engineered. On a related note, Spiri plays an absolutely gorgeous instrument.
3 Romances sans paroles, Op. 17: No. 1 in A flat major
3 Romances sans paroles, Op. 17: No. 2 in A minor
3 Romances sans paroles, Op. 17: No. 3 in A flat major
8 Pieces breves, Op. 84: No. 3. Fugue en la mineur
Barcarolle No. 6 in E flat major, Op. 70
8 Pieces breves, Op. 84: No. 1. Capriccio
8 Pieces breves, Op. 84: No. 5. Improvisation
8 Pieces breves, Op. 84: No. 7. Allegresse
Preludes, Op. 103: Prelude No. 1
Preludes, Op. 103: Prelude No. 2
Preludes, Op. 103: Prelude No. 3
Preludes, Op. 103: Prelude No. 4
Preludes, Op. 103: Prelude No. 5
Preludes, Op. 103: Prelude No. 6
Preludes, Op. 103: Prelude No. 7
Preludes, Op. 103: Prelude No. 8
Preludes, Op. 103: Prelude No. 9
Barcarolle No. 12 in E flat major, Op. 106 bis
Barcarolle No. 13 in C major, Op. 116
Ballade in F sharp major, Op. 19: Andante cantabile -
Ballade in F sharp major, Op. 19: Allegro moderato -
Ballade in F sharp major, Op. 19: Allegro -
Ballade in F sharp major, Op. 19: Andante
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Romantic and soothingSeptember 13, 2013By Jenaire N. Lewandowski (Boston, MA)See All My Reviews"I am so happy I bought this CD. The music works well in the morning on a low volume to sooth and take me to another place in time. It helps to start my day in the right frame of mind. I would say that it is healing music. It is great for one who is dealing with an illness such as myself. Highly recommended."Report Abuse