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French pianist Nicolas Stavy is a persuasive advocate of Fauré’s unique and elusive muse. Th is distinguished recital ranges through early and middle-period radiance to the tragic rhetoric of the final Nocturnes via two student works, recorded here for the first time.

The appearance of a Piano Sonata (still unpublished) will raise a few eyebrows, particularly when you hear a teasing echo of Beethoven’s Sonata in G major Op 14/2 and catch a mischievous twinkle as Fauré parodies the classical style. A previously unknown Mazurka adds another enterprising touch, its harmonic spice reminiscent of Chopin. Th e three Songs Without Words offer a clear tribute to Mendelssohn combined with a sophistication very much Fauré’s own.

Stavy’s performance of Nocturne No 6 captures its alternating strength and delicacy. His reading, too of the No 13 reminds you that Fauré’s last three Nocturnes are surely a summa of his achievement, and rank among the most remarkable works in all keyboard literature. After such creative agony, the Ballade falls like balm on the ear, a memory of halcyon days, almost palpably perfumed and, like the sixth Nocturne, alive with birdsong.

Fauré would have rejoiced in Stavy’s passion, allaying the composer’s dread of those who play his music ‘with the shutters down.’ This beautifully recorded disc erases the relentless images of Fauré as a venerable white-haired old man and deserves to mark the start of a series.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2019 - ©Rhinegold Publishing