Music from Proust's Salons / Steven Isserlis, Connie Shih
With this programme of music for cello and piano, Steven Isserlis and Connie Shih transport us to the world immortalized in Marcel Proust’s a la recherche du temps perdu – the Parisian high society and its glittering salons. For the composers of the time these provided a perfect platform for the introduction of new works, performed by the finest musicians in France for a sympathetic, educated and rich (!) audience. And for the music-loving Proust they offered countless opportunities to meet the composers that he so admired (and others that he may have admired a bit less…) The first of these to make his appearance in the programme is no one less than Proust’s one-time lover and lifelong friend, Reynaldo Hahn, with a brief set of Variations chantantes on a theme from a baroque opera. He is followed by Gabriel Faure, whose music Proust gushed about in a letter to the composer: ‘I could write a book more than 300 pages long about it.’ Proust was less expansive about Saint-Saëns’ music even if he admired him as a pianist, but the composer’s First Cello Sonata is nevertheless the centrepiece of the programme, before Henri Duparc and Augusta Holmes make their appearance. These were both students of Cesar Franck, whose iconic Violin Sonata in A major (here in the version for cello) closes this programme of ‘salon music’ – in the best possible sense of the term.
The writings of Marcel Proust are suffused with music. Proust depicted the world of the Parisian salons of the late 19th century, where both music and literature flourished. This release by cellist Steven Isserlis and pianist Connie Shih does not depict a specific event, but it does plunge the listener into Proust's world. Isserlis brings the necessary heat to the Franck sonata, an arrangement of the composer's cello sonata that the composer himself sanctioned. Another draw is Shih's accompaniment work, distinctive and appropriately intense. For lovers of French music, this is a standout release.
– AllMusicGuide.com (James Manheim)
Catalog Number: BIS-2522
Composer: Augusta Holmès, Camille Saint-Saëns, César Franck, Gabriel Fauré, Henri Duparc, Reynaldo Hahn
Performer: Connie Shih, Steven Isserlis