Fauré: Nocturne No 2 in B major, Op 33 No 2  [5’47”]

Pascal Rogé, piano

19 John Singer Sargent - portrait of Gabriel Fauré

Gabriel Fauré brilliantly caught by John Singer Sargent

A composer as far away as could be from the need to promote his nation’s folk heritage was Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924), whose music so unselfconsciously embodies the archetypal urban French values of refinement and urbanity.  Quite apart from his own merits, he represents an important link in the French musical tradition, being the pupil of Saint-Saëns and the teacher of Ravel.  His 13 nocturnes span 46 years (c 1875–1921), and so almost his whole maturity.  They are among his best known works, and the second, written around 1880, is already a worthy instance of his highly individual art.  The genre of the piano nocturne, invented by an Irish exile called John Field, was brought to perfection by Chopin, whose influence on the young Fauré was rivalled only by that of Schumann.

Like Chopin’s, Fauré’s nocturnes are cast in simple ternary (ABA) form, but in both cases the subtlety of handling is everything.  The leisurely, lyrical opening A of the present example, highly characteristic of its composer, gives way at 1’04” to a substantial central section whose initial, fairly muscular (still Schumannesque?) theme alternates then merges with the gentler strain first heard at 1’34”.  At 4’09” is reached the reprise of A, the opening theme’s return rendered more delicious by the exquisite little clashes brought out so beautifully here by that prince of the French piano repertoire, Pascal Rogé.

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