Notes and Editorial Reviews
Années de pèlerinage:
Book 1, “Suisse”
André Laplante (pn)
ANALEKTA 2 9980 (49:04)
This is my first encounter with Quebec pianist André Laplante, who has been making a name for himself in Romantic fare. On this evidence his playing possesses general qualities of elegance, an impressively sustained line, and consistent tonal beauty (a feeling of lightness even at
performances have great finesse and a palpable sense of concentration, communicated not least through ear-catchingly sensitive pedaling in the service of poetic evocation.
The collection gets off to a fine start in “La Chapelle de Guillaume Tell,” sophisticated in voicing, combining rhetorical grandeur with luminosity and buoyancy. The pastoral and water-inspired pieces are beautifully drawn: “Au lac de Wallenstadt” has great impressionistic delicacy (and a notably original take on the left-hand ostinato, played with considerable rhythmic license—a very deliberate treatment of the upwardly-rippling grace notes on the downbeat, which then seamlessly blend with the following triplets, creating an effectively hazy atmosphere). “Pastorale” is delicately vivacious, with atmospheric clashing horn-call effects, while “Au bord d’une source” has a softly shimmering fluidity. The big pieces are equally successful: “Orage” has the requisite torrential quality, but is never overblown, always accommodating a buoyant fleetness and shapely phrasing. “Vallée d’Obermann” is colorful and atmospheric, its evolving narrative shaped with impressive concentration, building slowly and inexorably to a powerful yet luminous climax. “Les cloches de Genève” is compellingly painted, both in its framing bellscape and central Tristanesque emotional surge.
Laplante compares very well to big-name alternatives in complete recordings; I prefer him to both Berman, whose meticulous DG recording is technically superb but oddly colorless and studio-bound; and Bolet, whose Decca recording came just too late in his career, sounding tired and labored between sporadic flashes of the old patrician elegance. My two top choices would be Brendel (Philips) for intelligence, imagination, and sharpness of characterization; and Cziffra (EMI) for intuitive insights and electric reflexes like no other. But this music thrives on multiple interpretations, and I anticipate returning often to Laplante’s refined, distinctive artistry.
The recording is beautifully wide-ranging in a well-defined space (with audible vocalizations in strenuous passages, which some may find distracting, though I don’t). A very distinguished disc.
FANFARE: Boyd Pomeroy
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