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Alfred Cortot (1877-1962) has had much written about him as a pianist and he left us recordings to help determine his musical personality; he played with a certain freedom and much poetry, as if telling a story. All the music here consists of Cortot’s transcriptions for solo piano, beginning with Fauré’s Dolly Suite, played in an unsentimental and businesslike way by He Yue that must be the polar opposite to what Cortot had in mind. Each to their own, but though He Yue does display a certain sensitivity, his straight-bat approach is far from engaging; clear and easeful, but not much more.

The Toccata and Fugue in D minor (BWV565) finds the pianist far more sympathetic, enjoying the music’s grandeur and impetuosity. Transcriptions of songs by Brahms (Wiegenlied) and Schubert (Heidenröslein) follow, lovingly written out and played, as are the slow movements of Bach’s F minor Harpsichord Concerto (an Arioso of rare eloquence) and Chopin’s Cello Sonata (eloquently expressive).

But the meat of this Cortot-inspired release is César Franck’s Sonata for Violin and Piano – yes, for solo piano and complete! I can only say that I did not miss the violin once; a tribute to Cortot’s extraordinary version and to He Yue’s dedicated playing. With hindsight, his Fauré introduction was misleading. Familiar as this sonata is, it sounds like an original work for piano, recognisably by Franck, and is fascinating and rewarding. He Yue has been well and faithfully recorded.

COLIN ANDERSON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2013 - ©Rhinegold Publishing