Classical Music Review: New Releases

Gabriel Fauré - The Fauré Album (Gil Shaham). Sonata No. 1 in A Major for Violin and Piano, Op. 13; Romance, Op. 28; Fileuse ("Spinning Song"), Op. 80 No. 2; Sicilienne Op. 78 from "Pelléas et Melisande"; Berceuse, Op. 16; Sérénade Toscane; Andante Op. 75; Clair de Lune, Op. 46 No. 2; Morceau de lecture a vue; Trio for Piano, Cello and Violin, Op. 120; Après un Rêve, transcribed for trio by Akira Eguchi. Gil Shaham, violin; Akira Eguchi, piano; Brinton Smith, cello. Canary Classics ATM-CD-1239 (78'05).

Freed from the constraints of his exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon, violinist Gil Shaham has crafted an an all-Fauré program on this, his initial release on his own label Canary Classics.  Shaham, a self-described Fauré “fanatic,” plays this music with great sensitivity and fluidity.  In the Violin Sonata No. 1, Op. 13 (1875), which opens the program, Shaham reveals the work’s mercurial expressiveness while avoiding grotesque shifts in dynamics or an exaggerated rubato.  His tone is beautiful throughout and every passage is incorporated into a conception of the piece’s structure.  There is not a false step in the performance, and Akira Eguchi provides able support in the demanding piano part.

The second major work on the disk is Fauré's only piano trio, written in 1922, two years before the composer's death. Less impassioned and more harmonically diffuse than the sonata, it receives a comparably restrained performance here.  It is an interesting choice since the second violin sonata is a natural companion to the first, but I think the trio makes for a more satisfying program, both musically and in giving a more complete picture of Fauré's range.  The three movements are distinctive and complimentary: the first is a sonata-style movement built around two contrasting, lyrical themes; the second an almost song-like meditation, often featuring the violin and cello playing a rising theme in unison; the final movement is more emphatic with rising exchanges between the strings and the piano, but the overall feeling of resignation lingers.  Needless to say, the three players bring this out splendidly.

Between these two pieces are an assortment of occasional pieces and song transcriptions, including the exquisite Berceuse, Op. 16.  They're beautiful pieces and provide a showcase for Shaham's impeccable playing.

Tony Gualtieri
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