PRÉSENCES LOINTAINES, Vol. 2Andrew Zhou, piano
The title of this collection ‘Distant Presences’ pays homage to the great philosopher and musician Vladimir Jankélévitch, for whom music is still the best and perhaps only path to eternal life. Indeed, Loth’s wife hardens to stone as she turns toward the past and the future slips away, dissolving into a polyphonic fog. But the present, through the miracle of recording, brings to us Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, the flamboyant musical cousin of François Couperin, and Antoine Mariotte, who may not have been familiar to Jankélévitch, but whose inspired, romantic verve, passion in the French manner, and passages of Lisztian fiorature laid over the beautiful cantilenas of his Nocturne, would have earned his admiration. It is with Didier Rotella’s homage to Ravel that the future appears on the horizon, and in it we encounter the passion and outbursts of virtuosity, so quintessentially Ravelian, that envelop a mysterious and concealed musical fabric.
YVONNE LEFÉBUREUnissued Recordings, Vol. 4
The pianist to whom FY-Solstice is paying homage with the release of these rare – and in certain cases, previously unreleased – recordings belongs to the history of music in France in the 20th century. Through her teaching, participation in numerous radio broadcasts, concerts and recitals and, obviously, her discs, she was a major figure. She began recording before the Second World War during which she was a member of the Resistance from the outset. Yvonne Lefébure was, in many respects, an extraordinary woman and a musician whose freedom of judgement paid little heed to diplomacy. This may have had an adverse effect on the development of her international career [...]. Lefébure was, above all, a musician and a free woman in a world that was hardly so.
DINU LIPATTI - SAMSON FRANÇOISIn Yvonne Lefébure’s harmonics...
Let us celebrate the light and night which cross when all wolves are grey, count down the days, reel off these passing years that tear from our artistic affection musicians who continue to live on in the conscience of musicians and the public. The sun is Dinu Lipatti playing with Herbert von Karajan the Mozart of the radiant Concerto in C major K. 461, a smiling Jupiter who emerges from the clouds to light the world. Night is Samson François in Prokofiev’s rare Piano Concerto No. 5, leaping about like a black panther and accompanied by Leonard Bernstein in New York, a city that was made for this pianist who so loved jazz and song and yet did not receive its blessing. The ties are there; let us unknot them.
COCHEREAURarities and Unpublished Recordings
Here we are not dealing with a simple repackaging of recordings previously released by Solstice even though a number of essential stages could not be missing from this chosen portrait. Above all, the music lover is invited to a complete reevaluation of the artist’s phonographic legacy: Pierre Cochereau, in all fidelity, henceforth escaping from the outsized but closed universe of his cathedral, without ceasing for an instant to be himself: the organist of Notre-Dame. Some 74% of the recordings are previously unreleased on disc and provide proof by music, repertoire and improvisation combined, that although Cochereau drew his manner and style most profoundly from Notre-Dame as much as from the continuity of a symphonist like Louis Vierne, his personality asserted itself elsewhere, in the unity of the musician and his own modernity.
GABRIEL PIERNÉSaint Francis of Assisi
In the vast panorama of turn-of-the-century French music, there are certain familiar names of whose true importance cannot be suspected, often generally summed up in a few laconic phrases relegated to footnotes. Too often reduced to his sole activity as a conductor, Gabriel Pierné is one of them. Granted, on the podium of the Concerts Colonne between 1910 and 1932, he asserted himself as one of the most fervent defenders of traditional and avant-garde music, giving the first performances of such fundamental works as Stravinsky’s Firebird (1910), Debussy’s Ibéria (1910) and Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé (1911). But even though those claims to fame should be enough to justify his place in history books, the remarkable quality of his musical works deserves equal attention.
MARIE-CLAIRE ALAINPlays at Notre-Dame in Paris
The presence of Marie-Claire Alain at Notre-Dame de Paris was rare: only five recitals in all. Thus, the publication of these two accounts is all the more precious. The selection brought together on this disc illustrates the French organist’s unique ability for choosing in the palette of the Notre-Dame instrument the suitable sonority for each type of piece. Aurélie Decourt
GUILLOU PLAYS GUILLOUAt Notre-Dame in Paris
One remark to evoke the way we will have been able to hear, throughout this programme, the great organ of Notre-Dame de Paris sound. At the time, it was known for an amazing, fecund, symbiotic existence with its organist, Pierre Cochereau, openly in love with his alter ego, well known for being able to make it speak like no one else. Yet it is unquestionably a ‘Guillou’ organ that proudly speaks in many aspects over the course of nearly 80 minutes, changed into a kaleidoscope of sound, unusual in many regards. Should we be surprised? Surely not, if we dare compare this being of 8,000 voices with the greatest symphony orchestras capable of transforming themselves instantly and against their traditions, to the sole ends of bending to the often contradictory aesthetic desires of the greatest conductors. It is even thereby that we recognise them: unlimited resources, a strong identity, yet capable of adaptation or metamorphosis but without denial.
Chopin’s music remains indissociable from an instrument that he always considered his mediator, from the Rondo Op. 1, written in Warsaw in 1825, up to the Mazurka Op. 68 no. 4 dashed off on paper in 1849 in Paris’s Place Vendôme, shortly before his death at the age of thirty-nine. All exegetes have tried to approach the mystery of music that, in the lovely phrase of Vladimir Jankélévitch, ‘expresses the inexpressible ad infinitum’[...] The clarity of line, the transparency of the most complex chords, and the combinations of timbres prepared the way for Debussy and Scriabin, and even Messiaen. It has been said that Liszt was thinking of the orchestra when writing for the piano; Chopin, on the other hand, thought only of the keyboard of which he perceived the full human depth to the point of making it his sole source of inspiration. ‘To speak about Chopin’s music would imply, in a way, playing it together – and little matter whether the keyboard be made of dreams or ivory.’ (André Boucourechliev).
Michel Le Naour