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Les Pianos de la Nuit
Franz Peter SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Eight Variations on a French Song, in E minor, D624 (1818) [15'01]; Rondo in A, D951 (1828) [12'54]; Allegro in A minor, D947, Lebensstürme (1828) [12'18]; Fantasia in F minor, D940 (1828) [20'07].
Christian Ivaldi; Jean-Claude Pennetier (piano duet)
Live performance, Le Roque d'Anthéron, 16 August 2004. DDD
DVD9. Region Code 0. LPCM Stereo 2.0. DTS 5.1. Dolby Digital 5.1. PAL players only.
NAÏVE DR2116 AV103 [60'20]

The Provence Festival of La Roque d'Anthéron (Frank Braley - piano) has already extracted a fair measure of praise from this reviewer (review ) and was a Recording of the Month.

This Schubert piano-duet recital is right up there with Braley in terms of sheer excellence. The professionalism of the camera-work is amazing, the clarity of the images jaw-dropping. Ivaldi and Pennetier are expert interpreters. In particular, they uncover clouds underlying ostensibly sunny musical surfaces and this factor lends a real depth to their Schubert.

The D624 Variations is based on a very simple theme perhaps the pair are a little heavy at its initial presentation. It is the darker variations that set the tone for this recital, the sweet, lullaby moments acting as pure respite. Camera-work includes a back-shot after which the camera pans around, zooming in on the second player's fingers. It all works well, but if you just listen one hears a perhaps truer devotion to Schubert. Ivaldi takes Primo here.

The 'Grand Rondeau', D951 begins with the most affectionate simplicity. Pennetier, Primo here, is quite free, endeavouring to project a real quasi-improvisatory feeling. The two players bring real magic to a work that could so easily sound rather dour and wandering. There is a fitting intimacy to the playing, no doubt inspired by the venue.

Contrast is brought by the turbulent Allegro, D947 (Pennetier Primo again). This is a very interesting piece indeed, its distinct unrest - no pretence at hiding it here - providing quite a ride. Tonally the players are lovely, even in forte and beyond; Pennetier has a lovely mezzo-staccato.

Finally the great F minor Fantasia; Ivaldi is Primo here. We see their backs for the whole of the extended opening paragraph, a spotlight shining like a blue moon above them. Shading is often exquisite, sitting alongside real Sturm-und-Drang. Counterpoint is sturdy, leading to a reposeful close. The players have the measure of this work, of that there is no doubt. In its twenty minutes there is a whole world of emotions. Many will, I am sure, own on audio disc the Lupu/Perahia version (coupled with Mozart K448). This will complement it perfectly.

Very strongly recommended, despite the low playing time of just over an hour.

Colin Clarke



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