Saturday, May 14, 2011

Helene Grimaud - Reflections - Mork, Otter, Salonen, Staatskapelle Dresden







Who are the most gripping pianists currently performing? Earl Wild, the eminence grise; Martha Argerich and Maurizio Pollini, the eminences not-quite-so-grises; Marc-André Hamelin and Stephen Hough among the 40-somethings. Five or six years ago, I wouldn’t have expected Hélène Grimaud to join the elite. The transition from wunderkind to artistic post-adolescence is a difficult one, and for a while, it seemed as if the enormously talented Grimaud was settling for a comfortable, but not especially striking, career. But something seems to have happened since then. Her Chopin/Rachmaninoff collection revealed a tough, independent-minded pianist of the highest caliber, and this new collection—entitled “Reflection”—is, if anything, even better. The thematic core is “love.” But those looking for easy sentiment should seek elsewhere, for Grimaud sees love Sketch of Clara Wieck Schumann as “a revelation understood as feverish,” and the performances here are feverish indeed. Not that they’re consistently overwrought. Indeed, one of the wonders of this eventful disc is its subtle variety of expression: the play of moods at the end of the second movement of Robert’s Concerto, for instance, the sensitive shift in atmosphere as spring arrives at the end of Clara’s “Er ist gekommen,” the patches of reverie that dot the first movement of the Brahms Sonata. But I think it’s fair to say that, on the whole, impulse trumps contemplation: these works are presented as energetic, boldly articulated, rhythmically vital surges of passion. Even the middle movement of the Concerto, for all its ravishing curves, has strong undercurrents; and I doubt you’ve heard the finale of the Brahms Sonata played more ardently. It is, perhaps, a bit too much to take at one sitting—even given the diversity of medium. But every one of these performances is, on its own, absolutely compelling. It’s hard to believe that this is the same pianist whose previous performance of the Schumann Concerto so disappointed Leslie Gerber.

Grimaud is blessed with exceptional partners—these are something more than mere collaborations, revealing a kind of rare interpretive affinity that matches the rare (if fraught) affinities of the three composers on the disc. Mørk’s churning Brahms is especially thrilling. The sound is excellent, too. In a word, treasurable.


flac, booklet

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