WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Helen Reid, Piano

Reid / Chopin / Debussy
Release Date: 04/10/2012 
Label:  Omnibus Classics   Catalog #: 15005   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Frédéric ChopinClaude DebussyGabriel FauréRobert Schumann
Performer:  Helen Reid
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 56 Mins. 

This title is currently unavailable.



Notes and Editorial Reviews



HELEN REID PLAYS DEBUSSY, SCHUMANN, FAURÉ & CHOPIN Helen Reid (pn) OMNIBUS 5005 (56:26)


CHOPIN Nocturne in c?, Op. posth. Impromptus: No. 1 in A?, Op. 29; No. 2 in F?, Op. 36. DEBUSSY Nocturne in D?, L 82. Read more class="ARIAL12bi">L’isle joyeuse. FAURÉ Nocturne No. 6 in D?, Op. 63. SCHUMANN Faschingsschwank aus Wien


Helen Reid is a young Yorkshire-bred pianist who has appeared in recital throughout England, as well as in Spain, Slovakia, Hungary, Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic. This new album, recorded in 2010, is said to be Reid’s debut on Ominbus Classics, but finding no other recordings listed for her, I suspect this is her debut on record, period. Either way, she has chosen a program of very popular and oft-recorded romantic and Impressionist keyboard works.


Reid begins her recital with Chopin’s posthumously published C?-Minor Nocturne, which is numbered 20 on many recordings, but is identified in the composer’s complete catalog of works as op. P1, No. 16. It’s a lovely piece, dated 1830. The pianist follows this with the two impromptus, No. 1 in A?-Major, op. 29, and No. 2 in F?-Major, op. 36, adding her not in the least superfluous take to the well over 100 recordings of each in the current catalog. Reid, I believe, has something personal to say in her Chopin—not that other pianists don’t—that speaks to an exquisite refinement of touch and taste. I find her readings of these pieces technically impressive and emotionally moving.


To listen to Debussy’s 1892 D?-Major Nocturne—assuming you’re not familiar with it—you might not guess the composer, for even though he was 30 when he composed the piece, most of the more famous works by which he’s known— Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, La Mer , the three orchestral nocturnes, the String Quartet, and Pelléas et Mélisande —all came later. But open the score to this D?-Major piano Nocturne and you’ll see Debussy’s fingerprints all over it—keyboard arpeggios that look like they belong on a harp, sextuplet sixteenth notes against straight sixteenths and sixteenth-note triplets, and midway through a change in meter from common time (4/4) to an irregular 7/4, marked “In the character of a popular song.” The album note calls the piece “one of Debussy’s lesser known piano works,” but that’s true only in relative terms if you weigh some 50 recordings of it against some 250 for “La fille aux cheveux de lin” from Book 1 of the Preludes.


Written two years later (1894), Fauré’s Nocturne, also in D?-Major, is typical of the composer’s fluid melodic and harmonic style. Perhaps not quite as adventurous as Debussy’s nocturne, the piece nonetheless exploits the piano’s coloristic potential in beautiful tonal washes, of which famed pianist Alfred Cortot said, “There are few pages in all music comparable to these.”


Schumann’s Faschingsswank aus Wien (Carnival Scenes from Vienna) is one of those works in which the composer encrypted ciphers based on the notes A-S-C-H (A-E?-C-B?), As-C-H (A?-C-B?), and S-C-H-A (E?-C-B?-A) representing (1) the name of the town where Ernestine von Fricken, a pre-Clara love interest, was born, Asch; (2) the German word for Ash Wednesday, “Asch,” the beginning of the Lenten season which is ushered in by Carnival; and (3) a cryptogram, “SCHA,” corresponding to letters in Robert Alexander Schumann’s name. Why anyone, other than Schumann and possibly Ernestine von Fricken, would care about this I don’t know, but it’s an example of the kind of code games composers like to play, and it’s not something unique to music; one finds it especially in Renaissance painting, where artists like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci allegedly embedded secret signs and symbols into their canvases. Mona Lisa may be smirking at something in her portrait we’re not aware of and can’t even see without the aid of a spectrometer or an x-ray.


As for Reid’s performance of Faschingsswank , I find it not quite as persuasive as her readings of the Chopin, Debussy, and Fauré pieces. Her interpretation strikes me as a bit foursquare and lumpish. She has a tendency to play with a kind of bar-line rhythmic regularity, which defeats Schumann’s free-flowing lyricism. By no means am I saying that Reid is technically clumsy; that’s simply not the case. Rather, I’m saying that she seems not as at ease with Schumann as she does with the other composers. Perhaps she’s still figuring him out and working out her approach.


Reid closes her program with Debussy’s L’isle joyeuse , a piece written 12 years after the D?-Major Nocturne and now exhibiting the composer’s fully evolved Impressionist techniques: whole tone scales, pentatonic scales, elastic rhythms, pedal effects, and spiraling flumes and flurries of notes. Probably not intended to be pregnant with double entendres is this from an article on the piece I came across on Christine Stevenson’s notesfromapianist blog: “In 1904, Debussy escaped to that island of joy with Emma Bardac, who became his second wife. He revised L’isle joyeuse there.”


There’s no double entendre, intended or otherwise, in saying that Helen Reid’s performance of L’isle joyeuse is indeed a joyous thing. Her flair for Chopin and the French composers on this disc is beyond dispute, and her piano, captured by the recording in Suffolk’s Potton Hall, speaks with a crystalline clarity and bright sound that enhances these pieces, which are so sensitive to keyboard sonority and color. A wonderful debut album, and one that is warmly recommended.


FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Nocturnes (2) for Piano, Op. 27: no 1 in C sharp minor, B 91 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Helen Reid (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1835; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 12/15/2010 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Suffolk 
Length: 4 Minutes 22 Secs. 
2.
Impromptu for Piano no 1 in A flat major, B 110/Op. 29 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Helen Reid (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1837; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 12/15/2010 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Suffolk 
Length: 4 Minutes 12 Secs. 
3.
Impromptu for Piano no 2 in F sharp major, B 129/Op. 36 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Helen Reid (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1839; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 12/15/2010 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Suffolk 
Length: 6 Minutes 4 Secs. 
4.
Axel by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Helen Reid (Piano)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1888 
Date of Recording: 12/15/2010 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Suffolk 
Length: 6 Minutes 24 Secs. 
5.
Nocturne for Piano no 6 in D flat major, Op. 63 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Helen Reid (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1894; France 
Date of Recording: 12/15/2010 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Suffolk 
Length: 8 Minutes 2 Secs. 
6.
Faschingsschwank aus Wien, Op. 26 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Helen Reid (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1839-1840; Germany 
Date of Recording: 12/15/2010 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Suffolk 
Length: 20 Minutes 22 Secs. 
7.
L'isle joyeuse by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Helen Reid (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1904; France 
Date of Recording: 12/15/2010 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Suffolk 
Length: 6 Minutes 13 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title