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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

LEBRECHT LISTENS | The Album Any Marcel Proust Reader Was Waiting For

By Norman Lebrecht on October 22, 2021

Shani_Diluka
Shani Diluka (Photo: Sandrine Expilly/Parlophone Records)

Shani Diluka: The Proust Album (Warner)

★★★★☆

🎧 Apple Music | Spotify | Amazon

Every now and then, a record arrives that I have been waiting for all my life. As any Marcel Proust reader knows, the author’s search for lost time involves a tremendous amount of musical reminiscence and quotation, drawn from the salons of fin-de-siècle Paris. There must be a record of them, I used to think. There is now.

Expect no masterpieces on this album. Although Proust once attended 11 consecutive performances of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, his musical tastes were as trivial as the idle conversations he so languidly eavesdropped. The album opens with a piano concerto in E by Reynaldo Hahn, Proust’s long-lasting lover from Venezuela. Hahn was a delicate writer of two-minutes chansons. His concerto is a rag-and-bone man’s barrow trundling own a Haussmann boulevard, full of objets trouvés and going nowhere.

The pieces Proust knew best were by Fauré, Massenet, César Franck and Debussy. This record attempts to construct the entirely fictional Vinteuil Sonata from fragments by Hahn, Ysaye and Cécile Chaminade—not quite what Proust intended, but in the same posh arrondissement. Best of all is a French actor’s reading of the inimitable madeleine reminiscence from À la recherche, underscored by Reynaldo Hahn’s impossibly decadent Les rêveries du Prince Églantine…. To die for.

The album is the brainchild of Shani Diluka, a French pianist of Sri Lankan origin, who gives these pieces a deliciously light touch and brings off the concept with a freedom rarely permitted these days on record. The violinist in the Vinteuil is Pierre Fouchenneret, and there’s a welcome return to record for the soprano Natalie Dessay. I can’t wait to share this with fellow-Proustians.

To read more from Norman Lebrecht, subscribe to Slippedisc.com.

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