I associate Fauré so strongly with a sort of lightness of texture and melody that it’s easy to forget how dark he can get. This new 2-CD set of his Nocturnes and Barcarolles (as well as the Dolly Suite alongside Cathy Fuller) by superstar Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin reminds us that underneath the characteristic Fauré sound, there’s often a gently melancholy edge, which, at times, tips over into something more complex still.
Hamelin’s truly astonishing virtuosity here is transmuted into remarkable variations of colour throughout, with the Nocturnes providing him with plenty of opportunities to colour these works with both light and shade—the Nocturne No 2, for instance, flips between powerful, rushing, Chopin-esque passages full of dramatic harmonic shifts, and delicate flutters of dappled sunlight chords.
With the generally rather introspective Nocturnes on disc 1, the Barcarolles on disc 2 give us the more familiar side of Fauré. As you might expect, the melodies here simply flow effortlessly, balancing what we might expect as well as unexpected turns. Hamelin here plays with sublime poise, shaping the hops, skips, and leaps of Fauré’s Puckish melodies perfectly.
The set closes with the Dolly Suite, Hamelin taking the upper parts and Fuller the lower. Again, Hamelin shapes these beautifully, with the slightest touch of melancholy (or perhaps simply nostalgia?) underpinning them. That’s brushed away with the sheer enjoyment of the final headlong rush of 'Le pas espagnol', concluding a superb two-disc set. A terrific release, and one that’s well worth picking up.