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Voyage a Paris / Greg McCallum

Poulenc / Debussy / Franck / Mccallum
Release Date: 03/09/2010 
Label:  Msr   Catalog #: 1233   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Francis PoulencClaude DebussyCésar FranckOlivier Messiaen,   ... 
Performer:  Greg McCallum
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

VOYAGE À PARIS Greg McCallum (pn) MSR MS 1233 (72:01)



POULENC Improvisations: No. 13 in b; No. 15 in c. DEBUSSY Preludes, Book 1: Minstrels; La Cathédral engloutie . Preludes, Book 2: Feux d’artifice. FRANCK Prelude, Choral et Fugue. Read more class="COMPOSER12"> RAVEL Gaspard de la nuit. MESSIAEN Vingt Regards sur L’Enfant Jésus: “Regard de L’Espirit de joie”


Greg McCallum’s first disc for MSR received a positive notice in these pages, as much for the outside-the-box programming as for his fine playing. But it is one matter to make an impression on the inquisitive listener with rarely heard works by the likes of Gottschalk, Mills, Still, and Rzewski (as well as one of McCallum’s own works), and quite another to jump into a crowded field of brilliant interpreters of Debussy, Ravel, and Messiaen. It may take a leap of faith for fans of French piano music to invite a relative unknown to share shelf space with the likes of Thibaudet, Pollini, and Moravec, but devotees aren’t likely to regret the purchase.


In general I would describe his readings as clear-eyed and unfussy (no gauzy washes of impressionist haze here), sensibly paced with rubato applied with a subtle touch, and a dynamic profile that seems more geared to framing the architecture than micro-managing phrases.


McCallum’s program includes a generously wide spectrum of styles, and the listener will be reminded how far-reaching French music traveled in a mere half century. Much of this program is well represented on disc, but there are a few wild cards thrown into the mix, including a pair of Francis Poulenc’s 15 Improvisations. The pianist has a persuasive way with these salon pieces, imbuing them with charm and lyrical grace. The three Debussy preludes show a mastery of color and keen control of dynamic shadings.


I can’t say that I concur with McCallum’s assertion in the notes that Franck’s Prélude, Choral and Fugue is a masterpiece (the long, arpeggiated procession of chords in the second movement is a deal breaker for me), but the pianist makes a strong case.


Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit is undoubtedly one of the sternest tests for a pianist. McCallum’s first movement is a bit careful with regard to tempo, but not so deliberate as to hamper melodic progression. He tends not to separate the myriad voices with exaggerated dynamic layering, an approach that took a bit of adjustment for me, but came to pay handsome dividends. Indeed, there are details of the score that I heard for the first time, no easy feat considering the number of interpretations I’ve heard. There are more impetuous readings of this masterpiece, but few that give the listener a clearer insight into the composer’s exacting craftsmanship.


As in the Ravel, Messiaen’s “Regard de L’Espirit de joie” is imbued with x-ray clarity and technicolor harmonies that shimmer with polished brilliance. While the percussive elements are tamer than in some recorded versions, dynamic contrasts are vividly etched, and the mammoth chords are deftly vanquished. If, like me, you have grown weary of the completeness fetish that has gripped the music world for decades and long for the taste required to fashion a satisfying recital disc, this is for you.


Recording quality is first-rate. Highly recommended.


FANFARE: Michael Cameron
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Works on This Recording

1. Improvisations (2) for Piano, FP 170: no 1 in A minor [no 13] by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Greg McCallum (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1958; France 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts and Letters, Ne 
Length: 2 Minutes 33 Secs. 
2. Improvisation for Piano no 15 in C minor, FP 176 "Hommage à Edith Piaf" by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Greg McCallum (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1959; France 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts and Letters, Ne 
Length: 3 Minutes 8 Secs. 
3. Préludes, Book 1: no 12, Minstrels by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Greg McCallum (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1909-1910; France 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts and Letters, Ne 
Length: 2 Minutes 35 Secs. 
4. Préludes, Book 1: no 10, La cathédrale engloutie by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Greg McCallum (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1910; France 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts and Letters, Ne 
Length: 6 Minutes 17 Secs. 
5. Préludes, Book 2: no 12, Feux d'artifice by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Greg McCallum (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912-1913; France 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts and Letters, Ne 
Length: 4 Minutes 53 Secs. 
6. Prelude, Chorale and Fugue for Piano, M 21 by César Franck
Performer:  Greg McCallum (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1884; France 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts and Letters, Ne 
Length: 19 Minutes 28 Secs. 
7. Vingt regards sur l'enfant Jésus: no 10, Regard de l'esprit de joie by Olivier Messiaen
Performer:  Greg McCallum (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; France 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts and Letters, Ne 
Length: 9 Minutes 3 Secs. 
8. Gaspard de la nuit by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Greg McCallum (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908; France 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts and Letters, Ne 
Length: 23 Minutes 20 Secs. 

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