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This is a disc stuffed to the brim with delights. Irmer is a highly sensitive pianist who presents Massenet’s cruelly underrated piano works in the best light. He begins with a Fantaisie based on themes from Meyerbeer’s Dinorah, which starts very much like a Liszt work in this genre before some French headiness creeps in. Irmer underplays the dreamy fantasy later on, but this remains an achievement (see also Irmer’s disc of Thalberg, including two Fantaisies on Rossini, on Dabringhaus). Thereafter, we enter familiar Massenet territory: Dix Pièces (1867) is magnificently charming (perhaps the fifth movement, an elegy, could be more interior). Yet Irmer captures the simplicity of the ‘pantomime enfantine’, Le Roman d’Arlequin. Another (unexpected) side of Massenet surfaces in the Bachian counterpoint of sixth Impromptu; yet another in the more advanced harmonies of the later works (Papillons noirs and Papillons blancs of 1907). Well worth the investment.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2012 - ©Rhinegold Publishing