Notes and Editorial Reviews
I have a friend who, whenever I am reviewing a collection of Chopin waltzes, invariably says, ?Oh, just tell them to listen to Lipatti.? For 50 years now, Lipatti?s recording has been a gold standard of performance for these pieces (and, to my ears, a few others as well). His light, fluid touch, his unaffected, but joyous phrasing, buoyant even in its delicacy, seems virtually unmatchable. I mention this, because the cover of the young French pianist Laure Favre-Kahn?s new rendition, recorded live in 2002, contains two French reviews of her playing, and both mention Lipatti. Philippe van den Bosch tells us that Favre-Kahn combines Lipatti?s absolute naturalness with
Martha Argerich?s ardor (my translation). That?s a tall order. Alain Duault tells us that this new disc makes us forget all previous recordings from Lipatti to Jean-Marc Luisada. Contradictorily, he tells us that he isn?t forgetting Rubinstein among the pianists whom Favre-Kahn makes us forget.
Logic aside, these are bold statements. I don?t hold Favre-Kahn responsible for the excesses of her reviewers. Nonetheless, I approached her disc with Lipatti, and another of my favorites, the unforgotten Rubinstein, in mind. I was immediately pleased by the seductive sobriety of the Waltz in A Minor, op. 32/2, with which she opens. Here was music played sensitively, with measured rubato that never sounded either affected or strained. Hers is a fluid, graceful style that is also sufficiently robust, not
as is Argerich, but rather both magisterial and somehow touching, as if the pianist trusts both her instincts and the music. Her fingers are up to the challenge of the Valse brillante that follows, but then this pianist seems up to every challenge of Chopin?s waltzes, including the challenge of keeping an audience enthralled with a program only of waltzes. Virtually silent (okay, there is occasionally a bit of rustling between waltzes), they respond to the 14th waltz played here, the Grande valse brillante in E
, op. 18, with ecstatic applause. The last number, the Waltz in A Minor, op. posth., is offered as an encore. Favre-Kahn does not make me forget her worthy predecessors. Why would I want to do that? But her Chopin waltzes are an equally worthy addition to that tradition. The live recording adds a certain excitement, and suggests the pianist?s daring, and the recording, made in the Grand Theater of Reims, allows us to hear a great pianist in excellent sound.
FANFARE: Michael Ullman
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