Though French born, pianist David Fray doesn't consider himself a French artist.
Known for his interpretations of Germanic repertoire, he has a special reverence for Bach and Schubert. His parents instilled in him at early age a love for Germanic culture. “If, over my life, I can play all the works of Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Haydn, Brahms and Schumann, then I shall be very happy,” Fray has observed. And one of his major influences has been the pianist Wilhelm Kempff (1895–1991): “What I love about his playing is that he makes the piano sing and speak. That is my ultimate goal.”
When Fray returns to Chicago for a Symphony Center Presents recital on Nov. 6, appropriately Schubert will be on the program: the composer’s Three Piano Pieces, D. 946, and Wanderer Fantasy. Fray recorded the latter for his first recital disc, released in 2004. “The Schubert Fantasy is often dismissed as a marginal, overblown piece, but I wanted to show how powerful an inspiration it was for Liszt, and the 19th-century conception of the piano as an entire orchestra in itself,” Fray told BBC Music Magazine. “These are the kinds of connections I like to make.”
Many critics have commented on Fray's particular affinity for Schubert. The Musicophile blog once observed: “What is so special about his Schubert? Two words come to mind: elegance and fragility. In some parts, this Schubert sounds more like Bach than a composer who was at the beginning of the Romantic period. With this comes an outstanding transparency, but also a really intense intimacy.”
In recent years, Fray also has focused on Bach, with his last three discs devoted to works by that composer. “Bach and Schubert inhabit separate worlds, but separated by an intermission, they cohabit very well,” Fray said in a recent interview. “Their music leads to silence and is fed by silence.”