This is an interesting and varied collection of 29 pieces. On the one hand, we have the perennial favorites: several selections from Satie’s Gnossiennes and Read more style="font-style:italic">Gymnopédies, Debussy’s Clair de lune, Le Peit Nègre, and Rêverie, Poulenc’s Pastourelle, Ravel’s À la manière de Chabrier. On the other, there are lesser known works by these composers—Ravel’s Fanfare from L’Éventail de Jeanne, for instance—bits and pieces from composers who are regrettably not often heard today (Schmitt, Hahn, Koechlin, Séverac), and a couple from composers who have dropped almost entirely off the face of the earth (Ferroud, Dupont) unless you’re a collector. Despite a tendency to run towards the introspective side of the expressive range, this album is clearly designed to offer something that will appeal to anybody, as long as they have a basic interest in French piano music of the first quarter of the 20th century.
Queffélec brings a welcome logic, restraint, and transparency to such warhorses as Clair de lune. Color and balance take the place of the overwrought swells that muddy its depths. Equally impressive are her supple phrasing and ability to create a pearly tone at any level of touch. There’s plenty of definition but no hard edge to Ravel’s Fanfare, and a light, varied step to Satie’s Le Piccadilly despite its solid, rag-like chords.
She’s also willing to take a chance. This À la manière de Chabrier is done seriously, delicately, with concentration on color, and none on the contrast between Gounod’s theme and the Chabrier-like treatment Ravel delivers. It works, though I admit I prefer a more expansive interpretation. Queffélec also furnishes a breathtakingly slow, occasionally halting version of Hahn’s Frontispice that never quite loses its momentum, and again summons up a broad palette of colors in a very restricted range.
The beauty of tone, musical intelligence and imagination displayed on this disc are self-recommending. Factor in excellent sound (solidly balanced both for solo piano, and in the three four-hand works in which Queffélec is joined by Gaspard Dehaene), and you have an entry for my 2013 Want List.