Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Sonata No. 2,
Hélène Tysman (pn)
OEHMS 752 (72:14)
This young (not yet 30) French pianist makes a striking recorded debut here, boldly leaping into the most competitive fray imaginable. For the most part, it pays off; although the recordings hardly displace the formidable competition amassed over the years in this repertoire (how could they?), they do
establish Hélène Tysman as a force to be reckoned with.
The first movement of the sonata is taut, dramatic, with real fire and temperament. The main theme has a knife-edged point; the lyrical second theme is well shaped and sensitive, though the contrast in tempo might be thought a little overdone—compare Charles Rosen (Music & Arts), whose strict adherence to one tempo throughout imparts a radically severe character that really alters our conception of this music. Interestingly, she does emulate Rosen (and the incomparable Juanita Zayas, on ZMI) in another respect, by opting for the more harmonically cogent exposition repetition back to the beginning (in contrast to the majority of pianists, who overlook harmonic illogic to follow corrupt modern editions that have the repeat from the “Doppio movimento” at bar 5—Emmanuel Ax [RCA] comes up with the ingenious, though self-defeating, solution of doggedly sticking to bar 5, but taking it upon himself to alter the bass line for a more convincing connection!).
The Scherzo is incisive and sharply drawn, but she then invests the Trio with a limping effect I find exaggerated (comparison with the simplicity of Abbey Simon, on Vox, is salutary). Her playing of the Funeral March is most original, accenting the third quarter of the bar for an edgy, defiant effect. The D?-Major Trio is beautiful but a little monochrome, with insufficient dynamic variety in its internal middle section—Rosen, Zayas, and Hamelin (Hyperion) are all more compelling here. But the finale gets out-of-the-ordinary treatment: measured, precise, scrupulously unpedaled and beautifully controlled, the polar opposite of Pletnev’s (Virgin Classics) dark, heavily pedaled impressionistic swirl.
The preludes are generally intelligent, thoughtful, and well conceived, tonally beautiful and often with real interpretive originality (hear her “vocal” shaping of the rapid passagework in the C?- and G?-Minor). She summons real fire and memorable declamatory rhetoric where called for—the B?-, F, G, and D Minor. Elsewhere (D?, B?), she is not afraid to savor the radical harmonic clashes resulting from strict observance of the notated pedal effects. In the A?, her supple phrasing is a delight. On the debit side, I don’t care for her penchant for “meaningful” agogic hesitations in some of the slow, technically easier preludes (A, E, and B Minor; A, F?—though in the latter, the poetic bell-like descants at the end are daringly delayed to the last possible moment, an exquisite effect); the E Minor also suffers from a too-obvious placement of the climax. Fussy tempo manipulations also afflict some of the faster preludes (D, B, F).
The recording has fine solidity and presence in a well-defined space. Despite reservations, this is an impressive achievement. Tysman will undoubtedly go on to even finer things, and probably even better recordings of these two works. But with this disc she has already made her mark as an artist of distinction and considerable originality. Recommended to Chopin aficionados looking for some fresh takes on this familiar but inexhaustible fare.
FANFARE: Boyd Pomeroy
Works on This Recording
Preludes (24) for Piano, Op. 28 by Frédéric Chopin
Hélène Tysman (Piano)
Written: 1836-1839; Paris, France
Venue: Eglise Evangélique Saint Marcel, Paris
Length: 40 Minutes 8 Secs.
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