Bach maintains a strong presence in David Fray’s Erato discography, to which he now adds a landmark of the solo keyboard repertoire: the Goldberg Variations. Fray’s playing of Bach has been praised by BBC Music Magazine as “exactly nuanced, its technical control aristocratically poised, producing sonorities of irresistibly pellucid light and shade. And his rhythmic vitality is acute.”
The French pianist recorded the Goldberg Variations in the Chapelle de Piétat in Barbazan-Debat, a small town in the Pyrenees in south-western France. “I had the idea of recording this album in the place where I grew up,” explains Fray. “I've always loved this little chapel, and these spaces have a unique way of bringing the sound to life. The Goldberg Variations are a real test. They are the work of a lifetime, perhaps a work about life itself … a kind of rite of passage, a journey. Every element of human life is in them: humour, gravity, grace, dance ...
“Bach didn't call these ‘variations’, but ‘Veränderungen’, which is ‘transformations’ in German. After these transformations, you return to the theme in its original simplicity, which brings both a kind of completion and an eternal repetition, as if you were at the top of a mountain looking back at the path you have followed. When you play the theme again after the 30 variations, in its original purity, it is as if you're at the end of your life, looking back over everything that has happened in the last hour-and-a-half. Few works give such a sense of eternity”.
Fray has spoken before of Bach as “a pinnacle; both a beginning and an end.” Reflecting further on the Goldberg Variations, he says: “We are servants to this work of infinite complexity: we can never feel that we've seen it from every angle or reached the top. We come to this monument with humility and some excitement, because it's a journey that will change our lives to some degree. You shouldn't aim for perfection but for authenticity: to produce something that makes sense, something that is natural, coherent and tells a story that everyone can relate to because it's the story of humanity.”
03 February 2017
Out now: David Fray's first album dedicated to the piano music of Chopin
“I had put Chopin to one side and wasn’t even sure whether I would play him again one day,” says the French pianist David Fray. Chopin’s music had been absent from Fray’s active repertoire for some 15 years before he recorded his new recital album, which comprises seven of the composer’s nocturnes, three mazurkas, a polonaise, a waltz and an impromptu. It takes its place in the catalogue of Erato recordings that Fray, now 35, has been building with care and reflection since 2008, and which also contains music by Bach, Mozart, Schubert and Boulez.
When Fray talks about Chopin – who died in Paris in 1849 aged just 39, having exercised a transformative influence on the piano repertoire – it becomes clear that he sees the composer’s work in archetypally Romantic terms: “For me, Chopin’s music is very fragile, vaporous, perfumed … somewhat intangible. It is so fluid and evanescent – you need to feel that it could just disappear at any moment.
"What makes it so touching is this ephemeral quality – the mazurkas are like something that you write in the sand … You know that it will be washed away, but the memory will remain. His music palpitates with a sense of the unexpected, the inspiration of the moment. If you tried to engrave it into marble, it would die.”
At the same time, Fray is aware of the intellectual and technical challenges posed by Chopin. “His is the music of an individualist … Chopin is an island, something of a closed world. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t want to approach his music too early – I was a little daunted. I’ve always had this idea of breaking out of the yoke imposed by the piano, but with Chopin that is difficult … the piano is at the centre of things.”
The piano was still a relatively new instrument in Chopin’s time and his writing – often typified by long sinuous melodies that evoke the bel canto opera of the early 19th century – tested and expanded its capabilities. “I have always had a passion for transforming the piano into a lyric, singing instrument,” continues Fray, “when it comes to the piano and the idea of control, I feel freer these than I used to, but in Chopin, freedom is like a breeze agitating a leaf. Though the leaf moves freely, it is attached to a stem, which is attached to a branch, which is in turn attached to a trunk.
"I hope that this Chopin recital will be an album of poetry, of song … with a sense of freedom.”
The wait is over: the 2015 BBC Proms programme has been announced!
The BBC Proms' 2015 programme has finally been announced, promising a summer of superb concerts and broadcasts for music lovers.
This star-studded classical line-up includes Proms favourites like British trumpeter Alison Balsom, who returns with a world premiere BBC commission from Guy Barker, The Lanterne of Light. The pair had a hit last year with their collaboration on Balsom's most recent album, Paris.
The John Wilson Orchestra follow the resounding succses of last year's Kiss Me KateCole Porter another concert in a smooth mood; this time a tribute to crooner Frank Sinatra starring Seth MacFarlane (the creator and principal vocalist behind the ever-popular animated series Family Guy). One of the most beloved Proms regulars, the orchestra performs for its second program of the year a concert dedicated to Leonard Bernstein.
Another British orchestra of a different bent, the Aurora Orchestra is a young and dynamic group that made a splash at their Proms debut in 2014 when they performed Mozart's Symphony No.40 entirely and collectively from memory. This time they perform Pastoral symphonies by composers as Beethoven and the Australian Brett Dean. The ensemble released their Warner Classics debut, Road Trip, early 2015.
French pianist David Fray, who made his Proms debut in 2011, is the soloist in Mozart's Piano Concerto No.24, as part of an adventurous program featuring Bartok's Miraculous Mandarin and Shostakovich's rarely performed, incomplete opera Orango.
A focus on the music of Pierre Boulez in his 90th birthday year, a Sibelius cycle for that composer's 150th anniversary, and a piano-lovers' feast with such distinguished artists as Leif Ove Andsnes, Maria João Pires and the Labèque sisters, there's more to look forward to than ever at this year's BBC Proms.
Full programme here. Booking opens on 16 May. The Proms runs from 17 July to 12 September and will be broadcast on BBC 3.
20 January 2015
Watch David Fray's new Schubert video for the forthcoming album 'Fantaisie'
In his new video, David Fray speaks passionately about "the imagination, poetry and inspiration" behind Schubert's late piano works.
The clip goes behind the scenes at his Paris recording sessions for the intimate album Fantaisie, solo and in duet with his former teacher Jacques Rouvier.
"In 2009 I made a Schubert album consisting of the Impromptus and the Moments musicaux. This time, I wanted to record a different kind of Schubert and and make a disc centred on the G major Sonata; a huge work that unfolds slowly over almost 40 minutes...from a whisper to a scream," Fray explains. "It's a side of Schubert which in my view can't be ignored."
Fantaisie is a deeply personal disc for Fray, and not just because he has his mentor Rouvier at his side. "I always say that Schubert is my best friend," he says. "I have the feeling that he's the one who understands me best."
David Fray's new Schubert album Fantaisieis out in February.
07 January 2015
David Fray to release new Schubert album 'Fantaisie'
David Fray returns to Schubert with Fantaisie, his much-anticipated second recording of the composer’s piano music, a collection of passionate late works. Along with the Sonata in G D894 ‘Fantasie’ and the Hungarian Melody D817, Fray presents two duets for piano four-hands, both composed in the last year of Schubert’s life: the Fantasia in F minor D940 and the towering Allegro in A minor D947, ‘Lebensstürme’ (‘Storms of Life’). Fray invited Jacques Rouvier, his mentor and renowned teacher from the Paris Conservatoire, to join him in the studio, making this album a true labour of love.
The French pianist’s Schubert interpretations are universally admired, both on disc and in recital. In its review of Fray’s 2009 album of the Moments musicaux and Impromptus D899, The Guardian praised his “discerning musicality… the sheer lucidity and polish of Fray’s playing, its exceptional command of colour and touch and the way he invariably uses that range of sound to point up musical structures in a meaningful way.” Gramophone declared it “a Schubert disc of the rarest distinction”, while BBC Music Magazine joined the fray with: “What’s immediately striking about his Schubert playing is its refinement, and variety of colour.”
Although Schubert composed over 20 sonatas, only three were published during his lifetime, of which the ‘Fantasie’ G Major Sonata D894,published in 1826, was the last. After Schubert’s death, Robert Schumann described this masterpiece as the "most perfect in form and conception" of all Schubert's sonatas.
Schubert spent the summers of 1818 and 1824 at the chateau of Count Johann Karl Esterházy (of the same Hungarian noble family that had been patron to Haydn), where he taught the Count’s two daughters. There he was exposed to the lively Magyar rhythms and tunes that infuse the Ungarische Melodie D817, a gem he composed in 1824 on his return to Vienna, but which went unpublished until a century after his death.
One of Schubert’s favourite forms of chamber music was the piano duet – he composed some 60 works in the genre. The Fantasia in F minorof 1828 is his last and most poetic contribution to the form as well as one of the most important works in his oeuvre.
In addition to David Fray, Jacques Rouvier – Professor of Piano at the Paris Conservatoire since 1979 – counts some of today’s most illustrious international virtuosos among his former students, including Arcadi Volodos and Hélène Grimaud.
Schubert: Fantaisiewill be available early February.
07 March 2013
David Fray is currently in China
02 February 2013
David Fray on tour
03 December 2012
French pianist David Fray returns to Bach with his new album
“We shouldn’t be afraid of acknowledging the expressiveness of Bach’s music,” says Fray. “The Romantics don’t have a monopoly on expressivity!”