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Hyperion Records

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Autumn Effect at Argenteuil (1873) by Claude Monet (1840-1926)
© Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67875
Recording details: August 2012
Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Germany
Produced by Ludger Böckenhoff
Engineered by Ludger Böckenhoff
Release date: September 2013
Total duration: 16 minutes 20 seconds

'Hewitt's way with the Valses-caprices is scintillating and extrovert, most notably in the second waltz's swing-high, swing-low teasing sophistication … she is notably sensitive, too, to the openings of Nocturnes Nos 6 and 13, and to the latter's anguished utterance … Hewitt's excellently recorded disc (as bright as the playing) provides an invigorating modern alternative' (Gramophone)

'Take a French composer with a contrapuntal bent, whose music requires a rigour, poise and nuance akin to that of a ballet dancer. Then choose a pianist, such as Angela Hewitt, whose feel for all these qualities is a given. The result is an exquisite Fauré recital … Hewitt's clarity is exemplary. The purity and strong, supple backbone of her playing lets Fauré's inventive genius, his extraordinary sensitivity to colour, harmonic shading, texture and eloquence, shine on its own terms' (BBC Music Magazine)

'It is strange how little of Fauré’s piano music seems to be part of the regular repertoire nowadays compared with, say, Debussy or Ravel. It is even stranger when you hear it played with such captivating élan and finesse as by Angela Hewitt. With her radiant sparkle in two Valse-caprices, the sun seems to shine, and she traces a whole rainbow of moods through three nocturnes (Nos 5, 6 and 13), the early Ballade and the Thème et variations Op 73. Utterly delightful' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Those unfamiliar with Fauré's keyboard works will find that Hewitt's selection provides a perfect introduction, She is complemented by a fabulous recording quality and an instrument (her trusty Fazioli) that does her justice at every turn' (International Record Review)

'A very thoughtfully planned sequence, beautifully executed; the sharply contrasting characters of each of the variations are perfectly focused, while the joyous exuberance of the early Ballade sweeps all before it. She's equally precise and revealing in the apparently slighter works, too, finding just a hint of the danger that gives the French waltz its special edge in the Valses-caprices, and including two of the greatest of the nocturnes: the sixth in D flat major and the 13th in B minor, Fauré's last and profoundly tragic piano work. All these pieces are presented with exemplary clarity and wonderfully crystalline tone' (The Guardian)

'Hewitt knows that some regard the composer’s Nocturnes, Ballade, and Theme and Variations Opus 73 as 'salon' music, and sets out to prove that these short pieces are as complex and nuanced at heart as they are serene and accessible on the surface. Particularly masterly are the variations, the heartbreaking 7th and final 12th very lovely' (The Independent on Sunday)

'A thoughtful and satsifying Fauré selection traversing his career and showing his art in diverse hues … Hewitt's interpretations are powerful and poetic' (The Sunday Times)

'Hewitt brings not just an intimate grasp of the music’s harmonic and technical demands, but an essential refinement—most evident in the Theme and Variations, in which she finds élan, lightness and grandeur without overemphasising the differences between the 11 variations. As for the Valses-caprices, you can’t mistake Hewitt’s delight in the playful passage-work' (Financial Times)

'Angela Hewitt is totally sympathetic to Fauré's sometimes elusive world and her Fazioli piano is superbly recorded' (Liverpool Daily Post)

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

Theme: Thème  [1'58]

Other recordings available for download
Kathryn Stott (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: The Complete Music for Piano' (CDS44601/4)
Fauré: The Complete Music for Piano
MP3 £20.00FLAC £20.00ALAC £20.00Buy by post £22.00 CDS44601/4  4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  

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