Saturday, January 9, 2010

gabriel faure | 13 nocturnes

in the culture of classical recordings, one often senses the presence of a hyper-anal compulsion about not letting anything in between the sheets, so to speak, except the virtuoso interpreter and the masterpiece. but on hearing thyssens-valentin's testament recording of faure's nocturnes, one may start to feel that the interpretation rests as much on the pianist's keenly dreamy intuition as upon the soft grey sound matter which beds each played note to sensational effect. yes, it's a bit fuzzy, but in the highest sense of the word: Fuzzy. is this stating anything new? no, of course not. everyone knows timbre plays an integral part in articulation, and what is production ambience if not the outerwear of timbre? why else would one feel "snuggled in" by so-called lo-fi recordings? the point the point the point is that nothing here is concealed by such opacity, but is rather suitably shown off. dating from 1875 to 1921, the nocturnes span most of faure's life, as well as a significant portion of western musical history, in which faure played no small part. listening to these pieces in order, one finds faure rapidly developing a lucidity within his artworld: the first nocturne starts as pretty as can be, and when it gets serious (that is, when it starts cranking out some bass runs in that E flat minor), i don't really feel as though we're leaving the original guise behind -- nothing's really heavified. on the later nocturnes, though, the composer cuts more daring paths; revelatory moments seem to come in syncopated rhythms, giving the impression of being repeatedly blindsided with emotional truths; the rests become more substantial -- thyssens-valentin pays these ample attention; and the melodic line winds ever inward with arresting purposefulness. still, if one were to put faure's name among four or five others from france from that timeframe (say, satie, ravel, debussy, poulenc), take a random sample of 21st century fancy people, and ask them to... well, you can tell i'd like to play the "he had a big influence on everybody" card as well as the "boo hoo hoo for faure's unappreciated legacy" card... but know what? i'm just gonna play the "check this shit out" card *a.k.a. the cool card. yeah yeah yeah. hear.