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“Nocturnes & Barcarolles”
Gabriel Fauré: Nocturnes: n° 1 in E‑Flat minor, opus 33, n° 1 – n° 2 in B major, opus 33, n° 2 – n° 3 in A‑Flat major, opus 33, n° 3 – n° 4 in E‑Flat major, opus 36 – n° 5 in B‑Flat major, opus 37 – n° 6 in D‑Flat major, opus 63 – n° 7 in C‑Sharp minor, opus 74 – n° 8 in D‑Flat major, opus 84, n° 2 – n° 9 in B minor – n° 10 in E minor – n° 11 in F‑Sharp minor, opus 104, n° 1 – n° 12 in E minor, opus 107 – n° 13 in B minor, opus 119 – Barcarolles [1]: n° 1 in A minor, opus 26 – n° 2 in G major, opus 41 – n° 3 in G‑Flat major, opus 42 – n° 4 in A‑Flat major, opus 44 – n° 5 in F‑Sharp minor, opus 66 – n° 6 in E‑Flat major, opus 70 – n° 7 in D minor, opus 90 – n° 8 in D‑Flat major, opus 96 – n° 9 in A minor, opus 101 – n° 10 in A minor, opus 104, n° 2 – n° 11 in G minor, opus 105 – n° 12 in E‑Flat major, opus 106 bis – n° 13 in C major, opus 116 – Dolly, opus 56 [*]

Marc-André Hamelin, Cathy Fuller [*] (piano)
Recording: St. Silas the Martyr, Kentish Town, London, England (June 8‑11 and September 19, 2022) – 163’
2 CDs Hyperion CDA68331/2 – Booklet in English, French and German

For me, art, and especially music, exist to elevate us as far as possible above everyday existence.
Gabriel Fauré

Transcendence and elevation are two words that brilliantly paint the talents of Gabriel Fauré with his piano œuvres defined by charm and sensitivity. Despite an emphasis on the organ as a child, compliments of his first teacher, Camille Saint‑Saëns, Fauré left no works behind in this genre.The grandiosity of the instrument, perhaps, pulled Fauré back into a protective cocoon of intimacy where he blossomed with amiable piano compositions.

Fauré’s nocturnes and barcarolles, both chronologically sequenced, have meaningful definition and colorful glances. In Hyperion’s booklet, Jessica Duchen writes, “Fauré as a small child was often left to his own devices in a beautiful garden in Montgauzy”...an independent chap of sorts, his mind obviously wandered in bliss and crowned with light unbiasedness. That’s what coifs his regimen. Furthermore, Marc‑André Hamelin, a well‑seasoned docent, reverentially journeys M. Fauré with clean definition and elegant sophistication.

Sagaciously cloaking a gauzy gris over the nocturnes, the pianist is a seasoned storyteller...artistically prudent in the output. We’re engaged with a musical raconteur, illustrious in stylized phrasings: direct, reflective, testy, intense and clairvoyant, to name a few. So here we have it: patient crescendos and abrupt stops (as if to suggest a gasp) with expectant retrenchments, is what the initiating Nocturne n° 1 is all about. Climaxing 46 years later with the Nocturne n° 13 is Fauré’s emotional compression, a piece laden with passionate cries due to Saint‑Saëns’ loss and his own deafness. The progression articulates well through Marc‑André Hamelin.

Fauré’s barcarolles follow in similar linearity to his nocturnes, like a string of amorous Venetian gondoliers meandering the Italian waterways. Marc‑André Hamelin’s notes possess impeccable directness, nothing short of being edged by dulcet lyricism, as is exemplified in the magically delicate Barcarolle n° 3. Each passage rollicks away in clarity and introspection. The dreaminess surfaces with ebullient intoxication, like a sweet comfiture, that is well‑represented in the ensuing Barcarolle n° 4 .

The surprising twist is the take of Dolly, a suite for four hands. For this reviewer, it took a bit of time to get accustomed to the faster-than-expected tempos housed inside each of the six movements. Subtly bordering on aggression, repeat listens rethought preconceptions. Cadences are filled with ambitious rambunctiousness, though wholly entertaining. The biggest delight lands upon the conclusive “Le Pas espagnol” with the Hamelin/Fuller duo fully energized with its dazzling array of staggered staccatos: effusively childlike and riddled by beautifully contrasted dynamics.

Marc-André Hamelin has always been an ambassador of class, and this Hyperion recording is nothing short of being eloquent and electrifying. Excellent articulation and strongly recommended.

Christie Grimstad




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