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Plainte Calme - Messiaen, Ravel, Fauré / Lonquich

Release Date: 11/09/2004 
Label:  Ecm   Catalog #: 472400   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Gabriel FauréOlivier MessiaenMaurice Ravel
Performer:  Alexander Lonquich
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 20 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a recital distinguished above all by the intelligence of its programming, drawing connections one might not immediately intuit. Of course, the repertoire is French, mostly from the first half of the last century. But what makes it particularly adventurous is its association of three composers usually typecast respectively as Romantic/Impressionist/Modern. Instead, one quickly hears links and associations flowing from one to another, and realizes the French tradition is far more continuous, and that these artists all come from a close-knit “meme-pool.”

Perhaps the greatest service Alexander Lonquich provides is to place Gabriel Fauré in this company. I’ve had occasion over the past year to encounter more of this
Read more composer’s chamber music, and he sounds better all the time. Not only is he a consummate craftsman, but he possesses great lyricism and a deep (albeit subtle) imagination. The five impromptus span 1882–1909, comprising a sort of miniature portrait of the composer’s mature creative life. And his approach to piano texture and figuration makes a natural introduction to Ravel, whose Gaspard de la nuit stands as one of the greatest monuments of the keyboard literature, a work justly considered one of the most demanding for any pianist to tackle. Messiaen, you would think would be the odd man out here, but the preludes of 1929 are in fact his first published work and thus closer in period and spirit to his companions on this program. True, all the hallmarks of his mature style are evident, but there’s also a strong whiff of Impressionist harmony and mercurial formal flow as well. While Debussy seems more of an ancestor than Ravel, one only has to hear the tolling in the sixth prelude (“Cloches d’angoisse et larmes d’adieu”) as a continuation of the obsessively ringing B?s of Gaspard’s second movement (“Le gibet”).

Lonquich’s interpretive approach is different from what one might expect with this literature. Rather than create a gauzy sonic film, fragile and liquid, he goes more for a “string of pearls” sound, where every note is distinctly shaped and set as a jewel in its framework. While German, one could argue that this is, in fact, a very Gallic stance, one that emphasizes clarity and precision over evanescence. I admit it’s not my favored approach to this repertoire, but Lonquich makes such a strong and intelligence case that I’m willing to follow. He’s also a virtuoso completely up to the demands of the Ravel, which puts him in elite company.

Recently the New York Times Magazine ran an article about the new paradigm of independent record labels, with Nonesuch as its case study. Praise was given there, and deservedly so. Let me take just a moment to do similarly for ECM, though my voice is admittedly much smaller. Here we have a European analogue to Nonesuch—a label defined by the eclectic but always exacting taste of its prime mover—Manfred Eicher. While I can’t review them formally here, I’ve recently listened to two other ECM albums of elegant improvisations by saxophonist Jan Garbarek, violist Kim Kashkashian, and percussionist Manu Katché; and a stunning recital of the six Ysaÿe solo violin sonatas by Thomas Zehetmair. Add to this the Silvestrov songs, and you have some idea of the ever-surprising range of this label. In the end, the distinguishing quality of all its releases is a desire for substance, beauty, and adventure in the music it presents. Long may it prosper.

Robert Carl, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

Impromptu for Piano no 1 in E flat major, Op. 25 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Alexander Lonquich (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1881; France 
Impromptu for Piano no 2 in F minor, Op. 31 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Alexander Lonquich (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1883; France 
Impromptu for Piano no 3 in A flat major, Op. 34 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Alexander Lonquich (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1883; France 
Impromptu for Piano no 4 in D flat major, Op. 91 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Alexander Lonquich (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1905; France 
Impromptu for Piano no 5 in F sharp minor, Op. 102 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Alexander Lonquich (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1908-1909; France 
Preludes (8) for Piano by Olivier Messiaen
Performer:  Alexander Lonquich (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1929; France 
Gaspard de la nuit by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Alexander Lonquich (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908; France 

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