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Frank Braley (piano)
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Années de pèlerinage, Book 2, Italie (1837-49) – No. 6, Sonetto 123 del Petrarcha [7'27]; No. 5,  Sonetto 104 del Petrarcha [5'59]. La lugubre gondola II, S200 No. 2 [7'43].
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Préludes: Book 1 (1910) – No. 10, La cathédrale engloutie [5'57]; No. 9, La sérénade interrompu [2'31]; No. 5, Les collines d'Anacapri [2'52]; No. 4, Les sons et les parfumes [3'06]; No. 12, Minstrels; No. 7, Ce qu'a vu le vent d'Ouest [3'14]; Book 2 (1913) – No. 3, La Puerta del Vino [3'25]; No. 7, La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune [4'21]; No. 6,  Général Lavine – eccentric [2'35].
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Rhapsody in Blue (1924, version for solo piano) [15'24].
Frank Braley (piano).
Rec. Live at La Roque d'Anthéron on August 11th, 2004.
Director Yvon Gérault.
Region 0. Picture format 16:9 (4:3 compatible). PAL.
NAÏVE DR2114 [69'27]



This, I believe, will do wonders for Frank Braley's reputation. It’s a superb recital by an artist whose maturity and questing mind offer much. Intriguing and rewarding programming, too. The Liszt - including one of the ever-fascinating late works - links naturally in its forward-looking harmonies and its rarified textures to Debussy's elusive Préludes. The Gershwin seems closer to Impressionist in places because of the works preceding it.

The filming is atmospheric, intimate and at all times tasteful. The first Petrarch Sonnet we hear (No. 123) links to the spare textures of later Liszt. Braley's playing is on one level quite showy; he likes to take his hands a long way off the piano in a 'flourish', for example. But overall this is almost whispered, confidential playing that moves directly into No. 104 with its excellently weighted left-hand lines and naturally delivered right-hand roulades. Personally I found the suddenly slanted keyboard camera angle effective although not everyone will agree.

There is no applause between the Liszt items, so a screen fade leads in to Lugubre gondola. True close-ups of the left-hand show exactly Braley's touch. He sustains the intensity well.

The Debussy begins with the submerged cathedral, taken quite fast. Braley's idea is clearly to present a gradual but aurally obvious opening-out to the climax - karate chop on the left-hand bare low C! It sets in motion a Debussy Prélude sequence of the very first calibre. The 'Sérénade interrompue' is highly effective although the camera work made me a bit sea-sick. 'Anacapri' shows great awareness of tone-colour; he seems almost to stroke the keys. 'Les sons et les parfums' is again quite quick.

'Minstrels' shows Braley enjoying himself, from the nicely-timed hesitations of the beginning to hints of sleaze later on. 'This is great Debussy playing' I wrote in my listening notes.

'Puerto del Vino' is a distant memory of a dance, while 'La terrasse des audiences' is harmonically potent - again that superb textural awareness – and again that slanted camera angle! The West Wind begins as gentle rustling holding the potential of the great gusts that are to come. A quirky-in-the-extreme General Lavine closes this successful sequence.

Finally, the solo version of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Tons of sleaze here, and a nice use of change of camera angle when the music moves from 'tutti' to 'solo'. This is playful Gershwin, yet it is carefully considered, too – the horn cantus firmus (in the original) is clearly invoked. The Third Prelude by the same composer makes an excellent encore.

Highly recommended. The intimacy of the late-night setting adds to the performances.

Colin Clarke


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