Three works inspired by poetry form the thread Hungarian pianist Denes Varjon sews into his album subtitled De La Nuit featuring ground-breaking pieces by a trio of composers separated by almost 100 years. Its title comes from Gaspard de la Nuit, Ravel’s stunning settings of three Gothic poems by Aloysius Bertrand, the pivot of the program which starts with Schumann’s Fantasiestücke and ends on home ground for Varjon with Bartók’s Out of Doors.

Schumann’s eight short pieces were inspired by verses by Jean Paul and ETA Hoffmann and were composed at a time when he was only able to maintain contact with his beloved Clara secretly. It is harder to make a poetic connection for Bartók’s percussive five-piece suite, though it dovetails nicely with the Ravel, its slow movement, The Night’s Music, complementing the almost motionless Gallows section of Gaspard.

Varjon is best known to us for his collaborations with cellist Steven Isserlis and violinist Joshua Bell among others. But he has a fine body of work as a soloist, often matching established masterpieces like Liszt’s B Flat Sonata with shorter, lesser-known works. A ‘musician’s musician’, which is why the top artists seek him out as a chamber partner, Varjon plays with poetic sensitivity and his virtuosity is never in question. As a program, De La Nuit hangs together rather well. Manfred Eicher’s production has all the trademark cool and clean clarity of his prestige ECM label.

Composer: Schumann, Ravel
Composition: FantasiestückeOut of Doors
Performer: Dénes Várjon p
Catalogue Number: ECM 4817003

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