GRAMOPHONE AWARDS SHORTLIST 2019
O R C H E S T R A
C H A M B E R
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C O U R T E S Y
P H O T O G R A P H Y
Exemplary balance: Michael Collins takes on the dual role of soloist and conductor of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra enthusiastic applause and whooping greet the end of the performance.
In between the two concertos come the three movements transcribed by Rachmaninov of Bach’s seven-movement E major Partita for solo violin. Their good humour and charm completely elude Trifonov, who is merely dutiful and matter-of-fact compared with the lighthearted touch of Idil Biret, let alone the composer (1942).
The marketing of this release relies on the somewhat strained concept of a musical journey. Hence the sequence of striking faux-1920s photographs of Daniil Trifonov with a suitcase and dressed like a Russian spy on a historical railway (actually the Bluebell Line in Sussex). The disc’s title ‘Destination Rachmaninov – Departure’ adds nothing to one’s understanding or enjoyment of the contents. Jeremy Nicholas (11/18)
Saint-Saëns Piano Concertosa – No 2, Op 22; No 5, ‘Egyptian’, Op 103. Allegro appassionato, Op 70. Mazurka No 3, Op 66. Valse nonchalante, Op 110. Six Études, Op 52 – No 2, pour l’indépendance des doigts; No 6, En forme de valse. Six Études, Op 111 – No 1, Tierces majeures et mineures; No 4, Les cloches de Las Palmas Bertrand Chamayou pf a French National Orchestra / Emmanuel Krivine Erato F 9029 56342-6; F 6 9029 56342-2 (78’ • DDD)
The G minor Concerto opens Bertrand Chamayou’s disc. Good as the Lortie/Gardner/Chandos account is, it simply does not compare in detail, refinement or sheer Gallic exuberance. In fact, I would go as far as placing Chamayou and Krivine at or near the top of the myriad recordings currently available. Let me count the ways. A small detail – but one which Saint-Saëns took the trouble to carefully notate – is in the opening (unbarred) piano solo. Amid the 32nd-note flurries is a series of left hand tenutos, hardly noticed by Lortie but wittily pointed by Chamayou, whose whole approach is less fussy and coloured by a deliciously lucid tone. His pianissimoleggiero and jeu perlé playing are quite masterly, shown at his best in the Scherzo (with a more discreet and collegial timpanist) in which the second subject is far removed from Lortie’s galumphing farmer and more a light-footed dancing master. The finale zips along with exemplary clarity – listen to the precision of those trills! – and ends in spinetingling exultation.
The Egyptian Concerto (No 5) is hardly less successful. Stephen Hough is perhaps marginally more atmospheric in the slow movement and the greater tone painter of the two, but Chamayou never loses sight of the fact that this is a virtuoso piano concerto. One can well believe that Saint-Saëns found his inspiration for the opening measures of the finale in the pounding of the paddle steamer’s wheels as it travelled up the Nile. The final octave peroration played pìu mosso makes for a thrilling conclusion.
Chamayou follows the two concertos with seven well-chosen solos, among them the Étude en forme de valse. I can safely say that this is the most scintillating account I have heard other than Alfred Cortot’s celebrated 1931 recording – it’s that good – and shows a clean pair of heels to the cautious Piers Lane on Hyperion’s set of all Saint-Saëns’s études. Indeed, Chamayou is the more alive of the two in the three other études he plays, one of which is the rarely heard Les cloches de Las Palmas (No 4 of the Six Études, Op 111). Listen at the 1’57” mark: have church bells calling the faithful to prayer ever been more uncannily imitated on the piano by any composer? Talking of whom, the Mazurka No 3 and Valse nonchalante, Op 110, included here, must have been particular favourites of his as he himself made a piano roll of the former in 1915 and a shellac recording of the latter in 1904. It is with this that Chamayou concludes this most desirable disc. Jeremy Nicholas (10/18)
16 GRAMOPHONE SHORTLIST 2019