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Here is a unique coupling of polar opposites: Liszt’s rhetorical grandeur is followed by Fauré’s subtle understatement. Yet Fauré’s Nocturnes Nos 11-13 – a summation of his art – mirror a dark night of the soul, a ‘rage against the dying of the light’, remote from popular misconceptions of him as a conservative salon figure. Few works in the entire repertoire create a more painful and disquieting desolation, a reflection of Fauré’s circumstances, his mundane marriage, the trauma of his father’s death and most of all his increasing hearing disability. The austere elegy of No 11, composed in memory of Noemi Lalo, evolves in Nos 12 and 13 into a despairing cry at life’s cruelties. It is greatly to Peter Uppard’s credit that he unravels such emotional force and complexity with rare lucidity and sensitivity. He is no less acute in the romantically susceptible Nocturne No 6; and in the uneasy climbing of No 7, you already sense the torment beneath Fauré’s outwardly serene surface.

Thankfully Uppard’s Liszt is more musicianly than overt or spectacular: there is never a hint of effect-making. In both Funérailles and the Sonata, everything is unfolded with a quiet poetic intensity and control (try the fugue from the Sonata) yet complemented by a fearless sense of drama. Green Label’s sound is exemplary, faultlessly capturing performances of a very special calibre and distinction.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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