:: Chabrier disc on Hyperion
Gramophone - 2006-02-23
Dix pièces pittoresques. Habanera. Impromptu. Cinq pièces posthumes
Angela Hewitt pf
Vivacious playing from Hewitt restores these charming works to circulation
Chabrier's name lives on primarily through España and Marche joyeuse. His tiny output for piano is far too rarely encountered in the concert hall or on recordings, yet he is a delightful, self-contained original. From his total of a mere 26 titles, Angela Hewitt plays 18 on this little gem of a disc.
As it happened, I listened first to Habanera (track 17), one of my favourites, a languid, sensuous dance, and was struck by the unusual acoustic. It sounds as though the piano was recorded in some deserted fin de siècle spa hotel - and so it proves, for Hewitt's richly coloured Fazioli was captured in 'Das Kulturzentrum Grand Hotel, Dobbiaco, Italy', conjuring up images of cobwebbed spa patients shuffling vacantly round the dance floor before their next treatment.
In fact, whenever there is an exposed soft passage in the upper treble in this programme, the same atmospheric effect engages the ear momentarily; in the more robust items, it is hardly noticeable. As a piano recording, it is far preferable to Pierre Barbizet's dry and close-miked 1982 Chabrier collection (Erato - nla), but his discs feature the complete works. As to Hewitt's performances, they are as affectionate, warm, lyrical and charming as one could wish, underlining but not exaggerating Chabrier's deliciously predictable unpredictability. Though a tad slower than Barbizet in the two virtuoso numbers, Scherzo-valse and Bourrée fantasque (what splendid encores they would make), Hewitt's sparkling playfulness somehow makes them sound more vivacious.
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