Bach: Sonatas
Two celebrated soloists recording together for the first time, pianist David Fray and violinist Renaud Capuçon, and turn to Johann Sebastian Bach and four of his sonatas for violin and keyboard: No 3 in E Major, No 4 in C minor, No. 5 in F minor and No 6 in G Major.
The two French musicians struck up a performing partnership at the St Denis Festival in 2015. They have since appeared together at such venues as London’s Wigmore Hall, Manarat Al Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi and at the Festival of La Roque d’Anthéron in Provence, and in April 2019 the duo perform Bach and Beethoven at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, and in Lyon, Bordeaux, Grenoble (not far from Capuçon’s hometown, Chambéry), Geneva and the Heidelberger Frühling festival.
The towering German master figures prominently in Fray’s discography: his recent Erato release of the composer’s concertos for 2, 3 and 4 keyboards was preceded by an album of solo piano works, a collection of solo concertos (complemented by a video documentary directed by Bruno Monsaingeon) and a recital that strikingly juxtaposes works by Bach and Pierre Boulez.
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November 2018


Bach: Concertos for 2, 3 & 4 Pianos

This is a musical family affair,” says David Fray of this collection of Bach’s concertos for two, three and four keyboards. The ‘family’ connection is that Fray, like Audrey Vigoureux and Emmanuel Christien, is a former pupil of Jacques Rouvier, celebrated both as a soloist and as a teacher at the Paris Conservatoire. All four pianists participate and collaborate on this album, which contains Bach’s entire canon of concertos for multiple keyboard soloists, with the exception of the Triple Concerto in C major.

David Fray’s Erato catalogue already includes a number of solo works and concertos by Bach, and Jacques Rouvier joined him for duets on his Schubert album Fantasie. Discussing his Bach, BBC Music Magazine wrote: “Fray’s touch is exactly nuanced, its technical control aristocratically poised, producing sonorities of irresistibly pellucid light and shade. And his rhythmic vitality is acute.” Fray himself has spoken of Bach as “a pinnacle; both a beginning and an end”.

This recording – made in Toulouse’s beautiful and resonant Carmelite Chapel, built in the 18th century – has its origins in a concert that the four pianists gave in Montpellier in 2013, but here the string ensemble comes from the Orchestre national du Capitole de Toulouse.

“These concertos are a joy for both the players and the listener,” says David Fray. “They take their lead from the dance, and there is an Italian quality in their flexibility of line.” During his time in Weimar, Bach became fascinated by Italian string concertos and the Concerto for Four Keyboards is an adaptation of a concerto for four violins from Vivaldi’s famous collection L’estro armonico

“These concertos have an exceptional impact, energy and ‘bounce’ that can be hard to capture on the modern piano,” continues Fray. “The challenge is to take all the fat out of the sound – especially when you have several pianos playing together – and to capture that dancing Italian spirit with the help of lively articulation and an understanding of the polyphony.” 

Speaking of the Concerto for Four Keyboards, he says: “It is vital to achieve the right balance and to create a single sound, not four separate sounds. As pupils of Jacques Rouvier, we were always encouraged to have a distinct personality, but here, while retaining our individuality, we must find a zone where we can all come together … Four sounds that make sense as one sound.

“This album is not about looking to create ‘something new’. As a musician, you carry your vision with you, and with your sound you seek to generate momentum and movement. It’s for the audience to decide if you have produced something new and interesting.”

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February 2017



Chopin’s music had been absent from Fray’s active repertoire for some 15 years before he recorded this recital, which comprises seven of the composer’s nocturnes, three mazurkas, a polonaise, a waltz and an impromptu. 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.”

Track listing

Track Listing

  1. Nocturne
  2. Nocturnes, No. 13 in C minor, Op. 48/1
  3. Nocturnes, No. 16 in E flat, Op. 55/2
  4. Mazurkas (Complete), No. 41 in C sharp minor, Op. 63/3 (1846)
  5. Nocturnes, No. 18 in E, Op. 62/2
  6. Mazurkas (Complete), No. 11 in E minor, Op. 17/2 (1832-33)
  7. Polonaise-Fantaisie
  8. Nocturnes, No. 15 in F minor, Op. 55/1
  9. Nocturnes, No. 14 in F sharp minor, Op. 48/2
  10. (3) Impromptus, No. 3 in G flat, Op. 51
  11. Nocturnes, No. 10 in A flat, Op. 32/2
  12. Waltzes, No. 9 in A flat, Op. 69/1
  13. Mazurkas (Complete), No. 40 in F minor, Op. 63/2 (1846)
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February 2015
Performing with: Jacques Rouvier, piano

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About Schubert: Fantaisie

David Fray returns to Schubert with 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.

“Few pianists have been more acutely sensitive to Schubert’s complex inner world” Gramophone

The young 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 minor of 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.

Track listing

Track Listing

  1. Schubert: Piano Sonata No. 18 in G Major, D. 894, ‘Fantasie’: I. Molto moderato e cantabile
  2. Schubert: Piano Sonata No. 18 in G Major, D. 894, ‘Fantasie’: II. Andante
  3. Schubert: Piano Sonata No. 18 in G Major, D. 894, ‘Fantasie’: III. Menuetto. Allegro moderato – Trio
  4. Schubert: Piano Sonata No. 18 in G Major, D. 894, ‘Fantasie’: IV. Allegretto
  5. Schubert: Hungarian Melody in B Minor, D. 817
  6. Schubert: Fantasia in F Minor for Piano Four Hands, D. 940 7 Schubert: Allegro in A Minor, “Lebensstürme”, for Piano Four Hands, D. 947
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14 January, 2013
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Bach: Piano Works - Reviews

“Fray’s touch is exactly nuanced, its technical control aristocratically poised, produces sonorities of irresistably pellucid light and shade. And his rhythmic vitality is acute.” – BBC Music Magazine, March 2013 ****

“His C minor Partita (No. 2) stands out for its diversified articulations and sensitive melodic pointing…Fray also digs deepest in the E minor Partita’s Sarabande, spinning out the long lines as if they were a vocal aria in one of the Passions…Fray is at his consistent best in his forward-moving, assiduously unified and gorgeously controlled C minor Toccata.” – Gramophone Magazine, March 2013

Track Listing

Track Listing

Bach: Partita No.2 in C minor/c-moll/en ut mineur BWV 826
1. I Sinfonia – Grave. Adagio – Andante
2. II Allemande
3. III Courante
4. IV Sarabande
5. V Rondeau
6. VI Capriccio

7. Toccata in C minor/c-moll/en ut mineur BWV 911

Partita No.6 in E minor/e-moll/en mi mineur BWV 830  
8. I Toccata
9. II Allemande
10. III Courante
11. IV Air
12. VSarabande
13. VI Tempo di gavotta
14. VII Gigue

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3 November, 2008
Performing with: Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen * David Fray, piano and direction

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Bach: Piano Concertos - Reviews

“Fray’s command of colour and imaginative highlighting is intoxicating, and there is a freshness which makes for indisputably rewarding listening.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2008 ****

“his intelligent phrasing and emotional language are what one would expect of a much older pianist, but they are presented with a healthy dose of Young Man vigour and fun. It is playing which carries the impression that something profound is being communicated.” – BBC News, 22nd October 2008

Track Listing

Track Listing

Bach: Keyboard Concerto in D minor, BWV1052
1.    I. Allegro
2.    II. Adagio
3.    3. III. Allegro

Bach: Keyboard Concerto in A BWV1055
4.    I. Allegro
5.    II. Larghetto
6.    III. Allegro ma non tanto

Bach: Keyboard concerto in F minor, BWV 1056
7.    I Allegro
8.    II Adagio
9.    III Presto

Bach: Keyboard concerto in G minor, BWV 1058
10.    I Allegro
11.    II Andante
12.    III Allegro assai

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Available on DVD - Swing, Sing & Think

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4 May, 2007


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Bach & Boulez - Reviews

BBC Music Magazine Newcomer of the Year

“Fray’s debut is marked by an imaginative collation, Bach and Boulez, played with vibrant imagination. He pushes the boundaries but resists the merely quirky. Impeccable technique allows him to speak from the heart with deceptive ease.”BBC Music Magazine, May 2008

“…Fray’s gorgeous tone and ravishingly shaded trills cast an intimate, poetic spell that’s hard to resist, especially within the French Suite’s more modest dimensions. Fray matches Pierre-Laurent Aimard for character and precision in Boulez’s Notations, yet goes his own way.”Gramophone Magazine, July 2007

Track Listing

Track Listing

Bach: Partita for keyboard No. 4 in D major, BWV 828 (BC L4)
1. Ouverture
2. Allemande
3. Courante
4. Aria
5. Sarabande
6. Menuet
7. Gigue

Boulez: Notations, 12 pieces for piano
8. 1. Fantasque – Modéré
9. 2. Très vif
10. 3. Assez lent
11. 4. Rythmique
12. 5. Doux et improvise
13. 6. Rapide
14. 7. Hiératique
15. 8. Modéré jusqu’à très vif
16. 9. Lointain – Calme
17. 10. Mécanique et très sec
18. 11. Scintillant
19. 12. Lent – Puissant et âpre

Bach: French Suite, for keyboard No. 1 in D minor, BWV 812 (BC L19)
20. Allemande
21. Courante
22. Sarabande
23. Menuet 1 – Menuet 2 – Menuet 1
24. Gigue

25. Boulez: Sur Incises, for 3 pianos, 3 harps, 2 vibes & marimba

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22 November, 2010
Performing with: Philharmonia Orchestra
Jaap van Zweden, conductor
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Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 22 & 25 - Reviews

“David Fray is a lyricist in a thousand. Yet for all his innate sense of finesse, he seldom misses an opportunity to stress the music’s symphonic breadth. Unobtrusively animating the left hand, he provides structural depth as well as courtly accompaniment…

Fray’s…is of such supreme sophistication and refinement that he could hardly be mistaken for the common man… this is sublime entertainment, whose undercurrents of pathos are neither neglected nor exaggerated.” – BBC Music Magazine, ****

Track Listing

Track Listing

Mozart: Piano Concerto No.22 in E flat major K.482
1. I. Allegro
2. II. Andante
3. III. Allegro

Mozart: Piano Concerto No.25 in C major K.503
4. I. Allegro maestoso:
5. II. Andante
6. III. Allegretto

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Available on DVD

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5 October, 2009

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Schubert Impromptus Op.90 & Moments Musicaux - Reviews

“…a Schubert disc of the rarest distinction. …few pianists have been more acutely sensitive to Schubert’s complex inner world, one where an often pained and world-weary quality is thinly disguised by outward geniality.” – Gramophone Magazine, December 2009

“What’s immediately striking about his Schubert playing is its refinement, and variety of colour. In the melancholy unaccompanied theme that brings the first of the Impromptus, for instance, you can almost hear the plaintive sound of an oboe; while in No. 3 – a song without words in all but name – Fray allows the melody to sing in a genuine pianissimo, by making the inner-voice accompaniment sound like the murmur of a clarinet playing in its dark chalumeau register. This is altogether some of the most beautiful pianissimo playing you’re likely to hear… is a memorable recital, and no Schubert-lover should miss this.” – Monthly Choice – BBC Music Magazine, December 2009 *****

Track Listing

Track Listing

Schubert Impromptus Op.90 Moments Musicaux Allegre
1. Schubert: No. 1 in C: 6 Moments musicaux D780
2. Schubert: No. 2 in A flat: 6 Moments musicaux D780
3. Schubert: No. 3 in F minor: 6 Moments musicaux D780
4. Schubert: No. 4 in C sharp minor: 6 Moments musicaux D780
5. Schubert: No. 5 in F minor: 6 Moments musicaux D780
6. Schubert: No. 6 in A flat: 6 Moments musicaux D780

Schubert: Allegretto in C minor D915
7. Schubert: No. 1 in C minor:Allegro molto moderato: Impromptus D.899
8. Schubert: No. 2 in E flat major:Allegro: Impromptus D.899
9. Schubert: No. 3 in G flat major: Andante: Impromptus D.899
10. Schubert: No. 4 in A flat major: Allegretto: Impromptus D.899

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