- Piano Sonata in E flat minor
- Clairs de Lune, for piano
Among pianists, Paul Dukas' "Sonata in E flat minor" has acquired a singular reputation, not only because it requires considerable technique and physical stamina to pull off, but also because it is one of the least performed of the great late Romantic keyboard works. By most standards, this imposing piano sonata should have enjoyed much more acclaim than mere notoriety, since it is a finely thought-out essay in the tradition of Beethoven's last sonatas, albeit with a distinctly Chopin-esque cast; and despite its length, which typically runs to 45 minutes, it is a remarkably subtle work, with fluid music that lies surprisingly well under the fingers (considering that the composer was far from a master of the keyboard.) Yet because its demands on listeners are more extreme than those of most other sonatas, Dukas' only work in the genre has been recorded infrequently, and seldom by top performers on the major labels. Marc-André Hamelin and Hyperion seek to remedy that dearth with this exceptional 2006 release, which pairs a fully satisfying performance of the sonata with "Clairs de lune," a set of obscure, slightly grotesque character pieces by Abel Decaux. The featured work gives Hamelin ample opportunity to display his full range of skills and expressiveness, while Decaux's brooding pieces are close enough in mood, if not exactly in their impressionistic style, to be suitable filler. Hyperion's exceptional sound quality makes the disc thoroughly enjoyable, so anyone who has been curious about the sonata would do well to snap up this disc without delay.