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CD Review

Gabriel Fauré

  • Masques et bergamasques
  • Fantaisie for Flute (orch. Talmi) *
  • Pelléas et Mélisande (Suite)
  • Berceuse for Violin & Orchestra **
  • Élégie for Cello & Orchestra ***
  • Dolly (orch. Rabaud)
  • Pavane ****
* Demarre McGill, flute
** Alexander Velinzon, violin
*** Efe Baltacigil, cello
**** Seattle Symphony Chorale
Seattle Symphony Orchestra/Ludovic Morlot
Seattle Symphony Media SSM1004
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The Morlot era in Seattle rolls on with more French music, in this case, a superb all-Fauré program. It's always a thrill to see a disc devoted to the composer sans Requiem, and that's exactly what we have here. At over 70 minutes, you get three short works for soloist and orchestra (the works for piano and orchestra are absent), and the major suites as well. Attractively and professionally packaged, along with a version (or two) of the Requiem and sacred pieces, this could easily complete your Fauré collection.

Not since Michel Plasson on EMI/Warner has anyone paid much attention to these works as a viable program, so credit Morlot and the Seattle Symphony for making the effort. They are beautifully recorded; Benaroya Hall proves an ideal space for such music. And the Seattle Symphony is excellent in every respect. Strings are vibrant and clear, winds are warm and incisive. Better yet, where excitement is required, it's delivered. We tend to forget that not all of Fauré is warm and fuzzy. In the Gavotte of the Masques, the spirit of the dance is very present; refined but also unfailingly elegant. In Dolly, we find a great feeling of playfulness and some rich string tone which roundly outclass Beecham's classic on EMI. That's not to say that it's all technical; Morlot really asks for a French sound, one that he gets from the somewhat watery timbres of his winds, and the whimsical phrasing he coaxes from the strings. The brass have little to do, but even their sound is uniquely tailored to the music at hand.

The Fantaisie is fairly common, the other two works with soloist less so. The three soloists, all distinguished players within the ranks of the Seattle Symphony, play very well. Morlot also directs the Seattle Symphony Chorale in a flowing, gentle reading of the Pavane. I'm a choral singer who has never understood why conductors insist on the choral version of the work. Not only can you never discern what the words actually are, they do very little for the music anyway. The otherwise excellent and informative notes don't give us the texts, either. If you don't want it, it's the last track. A really fine release.

Copyright © 2014, Brian Wigman