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Dukas & Decaux: Piano Sonata CD

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Product details

  • Performer: Marc-André Hamelin
  • Composer: Abel Decaux, Paul Dukas
  • Audio CD (2 May 2006)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Hyperion
  • ASIN: B000F2C9SE
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 295,435 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Moderement Vite (Expressif Et Marque)
2. Calme, Un Peu Lent, Tres Soutenu
3. Vivement, Avec Legerete
4. Tres Lent
5. Minuit Passe
6. La Ruelle
7. Le Cimetiere
8. La Mer

Product Description

Dukas : Sonate pour piano en mi bémol mineur - Decaux : Clair de Lune / Marc-André Hamelin, piano

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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Max Scharnberg on 29 Jan. 2012
Format: Audio CD
I hope I am not injust, but if I can trust my memory Hamelin has published two versions of Dukas's piano sonata. Excuse me for saying so, but in the first he was playing as poorly as I do myself. Discant, bass, and everything between was equally loud. As that time we could at most praise him for having told us about the existence of a sonata that was very little known. - But maybe Hamelin was his own best critic, and eventually understood that Dukas deserves better. You cannot believe that it is the same pianist in both versions. In the one that is now sold by amazon Hamelin makes the highest and deepest poetry of Dukas's sonata. You cannot imagine that some day another pianist will play it better. No, it cannot be played better.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Decaux has been done better 1 Dec. 2006
By Jeffrey G. Jones - Published on
Format: Audio CD
REVISED 1/14/2007: I am editing this review to touch on the Dukas Sonata, which I unfairly dismissed in my first writing, and to restate some remarks that might have been taken as inflammatory. Though I may not love the Dukas Sonata as much as its companion work (or even Dukas' own Variations on a Theme of Rameau), the composer of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" had extremely high standards, and he only released only a few works to the world. They should all be considered important.

The Dukas Piano Sonata is a giant of a work, spanning four movements and forty-five minutes, and the difficulty level (both mental and technical) puts it out of reach of all but the greatest pianists. It has been recorded a few times, most recently on an unlovely and poorly recorded Naxos CD by Chantal Stigliani, but with this release it gets a reading by a virtuoso of major international standing.

Hamelin's technical acuity is never in question, and this disc is no exception, but Hamelin knows as well as anyone that a great technique alone does not make a great performance. The first step when learning a difficult work is to make it easy to play; the second, and by far more arduous, step is to make it easy to listen to. It is clear that Hamelin went to great lengths to present this fearsomely thick, dense, and multilayered score with as much simplicity and honesty as could ever be reasonably expected. It will still take multiple listenings to acclimate to the sheer size of the work - to find one's way in it - but fewer, most likely, than it would have taken with any prior recording. Furthermore, the payoff, as you might expect from Dukas, is great. The themes are unforgettable, their development is organic and finely tuned, and the breadth of emotional content is staggering. It can be compared favorably to the Schumann Fantasy, Op. 17 for its warmth and structural perfection.

The only thing that keeps me from giving my unconditional love to the Dukas is that some themes, including some of the grandest ones, come out unintentionally comical. This may be Hamelin's fault, as his reading sometimes lapses when the material becomes triumphal. The finale in particular sometimes sounds like circus music, or like something out of a video game, because - this is my interpretation - it is not coming from inside Marc-Andre. It's coming from his mechanism, and as us pianists know, the mechanism is a stupid, stupid thing sometimes.

At any rate, my focus from the moment I saw this CD on the shelf was Decaux's Clairs de Lune, having seen a note about the piece in Dubal's Art of the Piano book. I was extremely impressed upon first listen, but I am glad I decided to buy a second recording before writing this review - that being Frederic Chiu's, which is pretty cheap and widely available on the Harmonia Mundi label, coupled with wonderful readings of Ravel's Miroirs and Schoenberg's Op. 11.

This is not to say that Hamelin's reading doesn't have its merits. As he does in the Dukas, Hamelin presents the music simply and directly, with big and extremely well-controlled shapes. He is much more fluid, and he is easier to understand on the first listening. The first three pieces have a Philip Glass-esque suspense, a suspense which pays off with the wonderful, pregnant energy in the concluding piece, La Mer. I got the impression that something wonderful was about to happen, a feeling that ascended higher and higher before fading away into the ether - letting the expectation of joy down into a dark, irresolute close that will chill any receptive listener to the bone. Chiu's reading lacks this excitement.

Overall, though, I have to say that Chiu's performance is superior. He is one of the most refined pianists on the active circuit, and the nuance that he brings to this music makes Hamelin sound glib, rigid and rushed by comparison (Hamelin's reading is, indeed, five minutes faster). The Canadian may have the technique and strength of a titan, but Chiu's mental acuity simply makes for a more satisfying, deeper, and more powerful reading - despite the fact that he exerts himself much less. The shade and shadow, the languor and stillness, and the hush of night are just some of the oustanding qualities that seem to ring slightly false in Hamelin's reading after hearing the way Chiu brings them to life with his multidimensional, keenly felt and absolutely lucid performance.

If the idea of hearing Dukas' "French Hammerklavier" played by an expert interests you, I urge you not to pass this disc up, even if it is not perfect. And once you're done with the Dukas, by all means, give the Decaux a try. Even if Chiu's reading is ultimately more satisfying, this one is more likely to make you love the piece on the first listening.
12 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Fauré's Sonata, as written by Dukas... 17 Dec. 2006
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Fauré--the greatest of all French composers--wrote much excellent piano music; however, he did not essay that most important of genres the piano sonata. It sounds here as if Dukas wrote Fauré's Sonata for him. In other words, Dukas' Sonata sounds remarkably Fauréan--which is a good thing.

This Sonata of Dukas falls in with the general ethos of many others of the post-Wagnerian post-Franckian Franco-Belgian school of the turn-of-the-century (e.g., Caplet, Tournemire, Magnard, Cras, Lekeu, Vierne, Pierne, d'Indy, and of course Faure, et al.).

It's a very fine piece in the ultra-rare key of eb-minor. One of Scriabin's early sonatas is in the same key, and in fact this piece has many Scriabinesque inflections. Dukas' Sonata is a large excellent work and absolutely worthy of a prominent place in the repertoire.
Dukas: Complete Piano Music
Dukas: Piano Works
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