Chabrier: Piano Music

Piano Music by E Chabrier

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Hyperion Records CDA 67515

The piano music of Chabrier deserves to be better known. His Dix Pièces Pittoresques were described by Poulence as being “as important for French music as the Preludes of Debussy”. Chabrier’s infectious gaiety is captured on this disc which includes all of his major piano works.

“Angela Hewitt plays this refreshing selection with the same poetry, elegance and dancing touch that made her other French discs for Hyperion so special.” (The Times, London)


1. Impromptu 1873 (7’11)
2. Ronde champêtre c1870 (3’55)

Dix pièces pittoresques 1881 (42’25)
3. Paysage Allegro non troppo, avec calme (5’49)
4. Mélancolie Ben moderato (senza rigore e sempre tempo rubato) (2’39)
5. Tourbillon Allegro con fuoco (1’31)
6. Sous-bois Andantino (4’30)
7. Mauresque Moderato (3’21)
8. Idylle Allegretto (avec fraîcheur et naiveté) (3’51)
9. Danse villageoise Allegro risoluto (4’36)
10. Improvisation Andantino (fantasque et très passionné) (5’20)
11. Menuet pompeux Allegro franco (6’10)
12. Scherzo-valse Vivo (4’33)

13. Aubade 1883 (4’45)
14. Ballabile published 1897 (1’33)
15. Caprice published 1897 (2’44)
16. Feuillet d’album published 1897 (2’13)
17. Habanera 1885 (4’35)
18. Bourrée fantasque 1891 (6’38)

Chabrier was an important influence for subsequent generations of French composers (most notably Ravel who acknowledged his debt to the older composer), although his music was appreciated more by his fellow artists than by the public. His best works—notwithstanding the popularity of his evergreen orchestral rhapsody España—deserve to be better known.

Chabrier was a sensitive soul, prone to weep on hearing a single chord of Wagner, yet he cultivated a gaiety and sense of joy that is clearly heard in his music. As one biographer wrote: “With Chabrier, burlesque went hand in hand with the sentimental; the picturesque was allied to the emotional.” Chabrier’s passion for painting was unmatched by any other composer, and he was friends with important artists of the day, including Manet, Monet, Sisley, Cézanne and Renoir. He had many of their paintings on his walls, and Manet’s celebrated A Bar at the Folies-Bergère—reproduced on the front cover of this recording—hung above his piano.

Chabrier’s most important works are for the piano. The ten contrasting and evocative Pièces pittoresques form the centrepiece of this recording, and were described by Poulenc as being “as important for French music as the preludes of Debussy”. The remaining works are charming and varied character pieces. All are played with style and affection by Angela Hewitt, who with her renowned warmth and communicative flair makes a very special case for this music.

This recording is available in multichannel hybrid SACD and conventional CD formats.

Recorded in Das Kulturzentrum Grand Hotel, Dobbiaco, Italy, on 19–22 June 2004

“Pianists have missed some treats by neglecting Chabrier’s piano music. Angela Hewitt plays this refreshing selection with the same poetry, elegance and dancing touch that made her other French discs for Hyperion so special. The ten Pièces pittoresques take pride of place: dominated by sunshine, delightfully frisky rhythms and an early French Impressionist haze. Fed up of grey skies? Buy this disc and it’s already spring.” (The Times, London)


Available audio excerpts from this recording