Notes and Editorial Reviews
After his Bach concertos, a classical bestseller in both France and Germany, the young French pianist David Fray brings his unique sensibilities to Schubert.
David Fray has declared his particular affinity with Austro-German music, and after two CDs featuring Bach (and a DVD featuring him in Bach concertos) he now turns to the early Romantic era and Schubert, with a programme of the six Moments Musicaux D780, the four Impromptus D899 and the Allegretto in C minor D915, recorded in Berlin.
His approach to the music is typically questioning and illuminating. "At the piano," he told the French magazine Pianiste, "I try to make music like a
conductor, not just as a pianist. I approach the score as if it is a reduction of a symphonic work. The piano constitutes a way of getting nearer the heart of the music. How do you balance the voices? How do you find a progression in a movement? How do you put the polyphony in place? It's much more interesting to study Bach's approach to the orchestra in the Magnificat or the Christmas Oratorio than to read books on how to play Bach on the piano. Each time I approach a new score, I ask myself how the composer would have written it if he hadn't decided on the piano. Take Schubert's first impromptu, for instance: it starts like a reduction of an orchestral score: a tutti chord and then the melody is presented on its own, as if on a flute. Then the winds take up the theme before the strings make their entry. Most of the work comprises three or four independent lines which sing together a cello ostinato, counterpoint harmony in the violas, say, and the winds above it."
His recording of Bach concertos, released last November, has now sold over 40,000 copies in France and Germany, singling him out as a pianist to watch. The French magazine Le Monde de la Musique said: "The interpretation is always generous, enthusiastic and rich in contrasts. The fast movements appeal with their healthy energy, exuberant humour in their finales and lyricism throughout. No moments of tension stiffen the pianistï¿½s phrases and he gives free rein to the sound."
The German news magazine Spiegel described Fray as "perhaps the most inspired, certainly the most original Bach-player of his generation. He discovers more psychological depth, more well-rounded stories and more refined emotions than his colleagues His approach is lyrical, flexible, elegant and instilled with a cultivated bel canto aesthetic."
R E V I E W:
A Schubert recital to make you sit up and take notice.
Young poster-boy David Fray has acquired a reputation as something of a hot-head. If this is so then he has matured with this marvellous Schubert disc, full of nuanced playing, sensitivity to mood and mastery of shifting colours. While Fray is not yet in a position to challenge the most established interpreters of this music he is clearly getting very close.
The most exciting thing about this disc is the sheer sensitivity of the playing. Schubert’s finest music hovers on the membrane between joy and sorrow, delight and misery. Fray knows this and he shows an uncanny ability to reflect this ambivalence in his playing. There is no finer example of this than the A flat Moment Musicaux (No. 2): its sublimely beautiful opening, deep in its very simplicity, recurs often, but in Fray’s hands it is never the same twice - sometimes it is gentler and more questioning, sometimes wistful, sometimes with a tinge of sadness. The explosion of the minor key episode comes as a genuine shock, and the final recapitulation of the opening carries an air of uncertainty as to whether it can really resolve the tensions we have experienced. Fray writes in the (sometimes clumsy) CD notes about the fluidity and ambivalence of emotion in Schubert’s music, and he delivers it at its best in this piece.
Elsewhere the other movements are just as successful. The opening “alpine” call of the first Moment Musicaux sounds innocuous, almost naïve, but its return sounds delicate and edgy after the more penetrating central section. No. 3 in F minor sounds like a slow scherzo, quirky and impish rather than dark. No. 4 is vigorous and athletic in its workings out, but Fray suggests a core of vulnerability, while No. 6 is bright and clear where the other A flat
Moment had sounded darker and suggestive. The only misjudgement is No. 5 in F minor, with heavy phrasing and lumpen tempo where more lightness is required.
The Impromptus are just as successful. No 1 has an unusually stern, hard minor key opening and when the music finally melts into the major it is all the more beautiful and subtle. No. 2 begins in filigree lightness with a dramatic growth in strength, while No. 3 encompasses moods as changeable as the flowing left hand figure that undulates throughout. His playing of No. 4 faces head-on the complete mystery of that opening theme: is it happy or sad - or something else altogether? Its “victory” sounds fleeting and unconvincing while the introspective central section feels much more persuasive.
In between the two groups, the Allegretto in C minor is an example of all that is best in both Schubert’s music and Fray’s playing. The questioning opening flits between minor and an insecure major, and when C major is finally achieved it is triumphant but fleeting. The colour seems to change beneath Fray’s fingers as he plays, and I can think of no better complement for the Schubert pianist.
So watch out Uchida and Brendel: a new kid on the block may well be ready to face up to you soon! This is a Schubert recital to make you sit up and take notice.
-- Simon Thompson, MusicWeb International
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