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Hyperion Records

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Landscape near Menton (1883) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
Track(s) taken from CDS44601/4
Recording details: September 1994
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: April 1995
Total duration: 14 minutes 25 seconds

'Sumptuously recorded. A true and dedicated Francophile … [Kathryn Stott] is clearly among the more stylish and intriguing of all young pianists' (Gramophone)

'A tremendous achievement' (BBC Music Magazine)

'A revelation' (The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)

'One of the most purely pleasurable releases of the year so far. The playing is intelligent, persuasive, loving, and the music reaches far beyond the standard boundaries of fin de siècle French salon style. Four outstanding discs' (The Independent)

‘I never expect to hear this music better done’ (Classic FM Magazine)

'She deserves an honoured place beside the most distinguished Fauré exponents … a major achievement in every way' (Classic CD)

'A major contribution to the recorded literature of French piano music, strongly recommended' (Fanfare, USA)

'Cette superbe version insurpassé peut-être quant à la transparence et la musicalité' (Diapason, France)

Thème et variations, Op 73
summer 1895; first performed in December 1896 at St James's Hall, London, by Léon Delafosse

Theme: Thème  [2'07]

Other recordings available for download
Angela Hewitt (piano)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Thème et variations Op 73—Fauré’s longest and certainly one of his greatest pieces for solo piano—was begun in the summer of 1895, most of which Fauré wasted lobbying for the job of music critic of France’s leading newspaper, Le Figaro (a post he finally got in 1903). Its premiere didn’t come, however, until December 1896 when it was performed by Léon Delafosse at St James’s Hall in London. Several things could have led Fauré to compose a set of variations at this time. No doubt he heard his friend Louis Diémer perform Rameau’s Gavotte et six doubles, which figured that year in his recitals. Saint-Saëns had just composed his Thème varié. But most likely it was Fauré’s love of Schumann and his Études symphoniques that was his greatest influence.

The theme, in C sharp minor, is presented with march-like solemnity, becoming haunting in the second line when the dynamic falls to piano. The ascending scale of the opening is repeated after eight bars, but with different harmonies. We can already hear Fauré’s fondness for bass lines, the proper performance of which is essential in his music. In the first variation, the theme appears in the bass while the right hand weaves a filigree web in the high register. The second is scherzo-like, also giving room for the ‘cellos’ to shine. Energy builds in the third variation which combines duplets and triplets. Fauré insisted that they should be clearly defined. The fourth variation carries on the élan of the previous one, while capturing a haunted feeling in its middle section. The texture of the fifth is not easy to make clear: double thirds and double sixths abound in this unhurried waltz. The sixth is rather spooky, with the bass rising in octaves while the right hand descends in sighs. The seventh, eighth and ninth variations are all wonderful moments, with the latter expressing a rapturous stillness. This is broken by the very difficult tenth variation which demands great agility combined with precision, lightness, and a big reserve of power for its ending. The audience usually thinks this is the end, but it isn’t. In what can only be described as a moment of pure genius, Fauré switches to the major mode for his final variation which looks sparse on the page but is one of the most intense things he ever wrote. Every time I play it I get the shivers. As Robert Orledge writes in his excellent biography of the composer: ‘It raises the whole work onto a higher, almost religious plane … the chorale rises from its serenity to a climax of transcendental intensity, making the flashy excitement of the penultimate variation seem trivial in comparison.’

from notes by Angela Hewitt © 2013

Other albums featuring this work
'Fauré: Piano Music' (CDA67875)
Fauré: Piano Music
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 44.1 kHz £9.00ALAC 24-bit 44.1 kHz £9.00 CDA67875  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

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