Shani Diluka: The Proust Album (Warner)

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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 in this album. Although Proust once attended eleven 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 A la recherche, underscored by Reynaldo Hahn’s impossibly decadent Réveries du Prince Eglantine…. 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.


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This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)


About Author

Norman Lebrecht is a prolific writer on music and cultural affairs. His blog, Slipped Disc, is one of the most popular sites for cultural news. He presents The Lebrecht Interview on BBC Radio 3 and is a contributor to several publications, including the Wall Street Journal and The Standpoint. Visit every Friday for his weekly CD review // Norman Lebrecht est un rédacteur prolifique couvrant les événements musicaux et Slipped Disc, est un des plus populaires sites de nouvelles culturelles. Il anime The Lebrecht Interview sur la BBC Radio 3 et collabore à plusieurs publications, dont The Wall Street Journal et The Standpoint. Vous pouvez lire ses critiques de disques chaque vendredi.

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