a “Hatto original” but not such an important one as has been
claimed. I announced on the bulletin board, without waiting
to write the review and see it posted, my conviction that the
Etudes were not Thiollier as claimed, while corroborating
the identification of Hommage à Haydn and pointing to
that of D’un cahier d’esquisses, which hadn’t been spotted
as far as I know. Some are still insisting that the “Hatto”
Etudes are heavily doctored Thiollier. As I write reports
are coming in to show that “Hatto” discs do not always contain
the same performances, so I suppose there is a possibility that
those who say they have doctored Thiollier really do have that.
I’m as sure as eggs is eggs I don’t. In two appendixes below
I give detailed technical reasons why I am convinced of the
two smaller pieces and still maintain that the Etudes
cannot be Thiollier. Here and now I will only remark that the
Hattification of the two short works is a mild affair. The timings
remain about the same while the sound is somewhat brighter.
This is sufficiently to its advantage to make me wonder if Naxos
ought not to remaster the discs themselves. However, in view
of the fact that it was recorded in a church, I daresay the
slightly boomier sound is closer to what the engineers actually
heard, and its gentleness suits Debussy and Thiollier’s warm
way with him, as it has throughout the series.
who look at my appendixes may get the impression that Thiollier’s
Etudes are a catalogue of poorly observed dynamic markings
and overpedalling. Well actually, there are some dynamic markings
which Thiollier gets right and “Hatto” doesn’t. While I was
about it, I listened to the same extracts from the award-winning
Uchida and Fou Ts’ong and honestly there are plenty of dynamic
markings they ignore or reverse too. Frankly, Debussy was so
meticulous, you might say finicky, about the dynamics in these
Etudes that I wonder if an utterly accurate realization
is plausible, and where it would really lead. A pity he remained
utterly unhelpful about pedalling. So I think we owe it to Thiollier
to set aside the score and to realize that he’s giving a different
kind of performance.
I reviewed “Hatto” I remarked that while Fou Ts’ong mostly evoked
modernist images, geometrical forms rather than pictorial ones,
“Hatto’s” interpretations often brought to mind Debussy titles
we already know, calling up images of the moon descending on
the temple of the past, and so on. Yet compared with Thiollier
she occupies a midway position. He uses a more impressionistic
wash of sound, with an improvisational approach to the music
which aligns it surprisingly with the more “amorphous” 20th
century school, the later Scott, even Sorabji. Of course, these
composers took Debussy as their starting point no less than
Stravinsky or Webern, so the Thiollier lesson is an interesting,
if unusual, one.
basic approach is quite similar to that of “Hatto” – but “Hatto”
definitely isn’t Uchida if you’re wondering – and I think this
is the best recommendation. When we know who “Hatto” is, “she”
may give Uchida quite a run for her money. I can’t recommend
Thiollier above Uchida even at the price, but why not get both?
You’ll have two very different takes on some fascinating music.
of the smaller pieces were new to me, but nothing is insignificant.
The Elegie and Page d’album are most touching,
as is the longer Berceuse heroïque, while the tiny Morceau
de concours says a good deal more than I expected. Unfortunately
Thiollier finishes with an own goal. Masques is really
just a noisy muddle, with only vague hints of his best form
even in the quieter passages, which remain unsettled.
those who don’t want to go looking it up, my original “Hatto”
"Hommage à Haydn", where the recently-discovered Richter
performance found a Prokofief-like ostinato in the bass-line,
Hatto is more gently lilting with a magically singing melodic
line. "D’un Cahier d’esquisses", too, sounds more
like a masterpiece in its own right than a half-baked idea that
didn’t make it into one of the major collections.
trouble with the Richter Hommage is that the sound is
too hideous above mezzo forte for it to be of interest
except to Richterites. You can hear at the beginning that he
has a control of the sculpted line which is beyond Thiollier’s
ken, but he plays the second page like a Czerny study and doesn’t
seem very much in sympathy with the piece.
uneven, the Thiollier cycle is nevertheless a considerable achievement,
and I say that without regard for the price. The high points
are Volume 1 – he has a magical way with some of the early works
– and Volume 4, where the Préludes bring out the best
in him. To this I would add Volume 2 which includes some pieces
not present in every survey. But with the minor exception of
Masques, he is acceptable-to-good throughout.
reviews of this series:
1: WHY I AM CONVINCED THE “HATTO” “HOMMAGE A HAYDN” AND “D’UN
CAHIER D’ESQUISSES” ARE TAKEN FROM THOLLIER
order to make a positive identification I sought at least five
points in each piece where the performance had a particular
idiosyncrasy which even the same pianist would be unlikely to
repeat in exactly the same way between two performances. These
often involves points where Thollier is at variance with Debussy’s
markings. Other pianists would obey them or disobey them in
their own personal manner.
3. Debussy’s diminuendo is replaced by a sudden pianissimo and
a slight rallentando.
9-10. A slight impulsive hurrying of the melodic line as it
rises from A to D.
14. Pedal removed on third beat rather than second as implied
by Debussy’s rests.
16-19. Thiollier’s way of slightly delaying the first chord
of each bar is a fairly personal feature, easily recognized.
18. The G of the RH chord on the second beat disturbs the melodic
53. Debussy writes “dim. molto” after the F major chord, which
is logically still forte and the climax of the phrase. Thiollier
plays the F major chord as a sudden piano.
77. The LH C sharps are given a considerable expressive tenuto.
114-115. Debussy marks a crescendo (starting from piano) in
bar 114 and a sudden fall back to piano at the beginning of
bar 115. Thiollier interprets the crescendo as a diminuendo
and the sudden piano as an accent.
1. The F in the first melodic phrase is too heavily played for
its context (the same phrase is well managed in bar 4).
4. The pedal is removed during the rest with an ugly swish.
This could have been edited out fairly easily if Barrington-Coupe
had felt like it!
6-10. Perhaps not conclusive, but Thiollier has hands large
enough to encompass all the tenth stretches, while quite a few
pianists would have to split some of them.
29. The last chord in the bar is played too soon, distorting
the rhythmic shape.
43. The pedal is cleared on the D with a pause above it. There
is then another nasty swish when the D is released.
44. The pedal is kept from the previous bar and held through
this bar. Quite a lot of pianists would feel Debussy’s rests
in the upper staves are an indication to change it.
2. WHY I AM CONVINCED THE “HATTO” ETUDES ARE NOT THIOLLIER
had hoped not to have to write a full report on this negative
match. There is always the danger that I’ll have to write at
least thirty more before the real source is found. I realize
it would be ever so much better if I could at the same time
produce a recording that is so obviously the source that all
opposition would be dropped, but since there is still insistence
in some quarters that Thiollier is the “Hatto” source, here
we go. It’s necessarily very technical, but these points are
for me as decisive as any wave-patterns and I am sure they will
be for any other pianist.
made my first comparisons without a score. The points I noted
were all similar to those below, but I should find it hard to
describe them without reference to a score. Incredibly, Milan’s
most famous music store was out of Book 1 (nos. 1-6) in any
edition. However, since my score-reading has confirmed without
a doubt that no Etude in Book 2 (nos. 7-12) is derived from
Thiollier, perhaps this is sufficient.
each study I sought at least five variant points in the opening
page or two which I am convinced could not have been produced
by the heaviest doctoring, probably not even by an individual
intervention on every single note. If anyone still disagrees,
I really think the onus is on them to describe the technical
means by which such variants can be produced.
1-2: Quavers/8th notes played lightly by Thiollier
and allowed to vibrate (Debussy’s staccato not observed) by
the pedal. These same quavers/8th notes are played
by “Hatto” as a sharp, dry staccato, further emphasized by slightly
delaying the group of 32nd notes, producing a quasi-dotted
effect. Thiollier’s rhythms are more even.
2. Thiollier does not differentiate between the 8th
note at the beginning of this bar, which has an accent as well
as a staccato dot – he ignores staccatos and accents alike.
“Hatto” interprets the accent by allowing it to resonate for
half the bar.
9. The return to forte after the diminuendo in the previous
bar is brought out by Thiollier with an accent. The change barely
registers with “Hatto”.
11. Thollier marks the entry of the first melodic phrase in
the piece with a notable expressive hesitation. “Hatto” scarcely
makes any at all.
21. Debussy’s marking is “rinforzando”. Thiollier makes another
of his expressive commas and begins “più piano”. “Hatto” makes
no hesitation and strengthens the tone as requested.
1. Taking his cue from Debussy’s long-held bass-note, Thiollier
pedals right through the bar. “Hatto” pedals cleanly, even at
the cost of losing the bass-note.
2. “Hatto” reacts to Debussy’s staccato dots on the upper note
in each group by giving each one an accent. Thiollier offers
no interpretation of the staccato dots at all – the upper notes
are all but lost in the general mix of sound.
6. “Hatto” holds the pedal till the end of the bar, then lifts
it to allow us to hear the D flat resonating on its own before
starting the upward scale. Thiollier removes the pedal during
the first of the two repeated D flats, about halfway through
9. “Hatto” brings out the inner part with bell-like clarity,
Thiollier does not allow it to stand out from the texture.
10. “Hatto” removes the pedal at the half bar, allowing the
fourth-based chord to emerge from the texture and resonate by
itself before the music continues. Thiollier pedals through
15. The D and C grace notes in the second half of the bar are
not played by “Hatto”. Thiollier plays them.
2, 5, 6, 7. The rests are carefully observed by “Hatto”. Thiollier
pedals through them.
10. Thiollier makes a little rallentando in the second half
of the bar, “Hatto” does not.
12. Thiollier makes a little expressive hesitation before this
bar, “Hatto” plays it straight.
17. Again, Thiollier makes a comma before the bar, “Hatto” does
not. Thiollier plays this bar below tempo, “Hatto” keeps going.
23. “Hatto” makes a sharp unmarked accent at the beginning of
this bar, Thiollier does not.
28. For once “Hatto” over-pedals, clouding the chromatic line
which is clearer in Thiollier.
31. Thiollier begins the bar with an expressive tenuto, “Hatto”
3. “Hatto” clears the pedal at the beginning of this bar, also
at the beginning of b. 4. Thiollier pedals right through from
the beginning to the third beat of b.4.
6. “Hatto” removes the pedal very gradually and makes a considerable
pause before continuing. Thiollier removes the pedal rather
more clumsily, with a swish, and continues immediately.
9. In “Hatto” the tolling A flat is made to sound part of the
melodic line. Thiollier makes the two “sonorités opposées” quite
distinct from one another.
13. “Hatto” clears the pedal at the beginning of this bar, Thiollier
keeps his foot firmly down to the end of the bar.
15 onwards. This passage is much harder than it sounds because
the hands are crossed. With Thiollier the melodic line seems
to be the in the middle of the texture, the lower note in the
left hand, while the moving 8th notes dominate. Thiollier’s
LH chords are sometimes not quite together, but “Hatto” slightly
arpeggiates the LH chords and by this means succeeds in getting
the upper note to sing as the melody line.
30. Thiollier changes the pedal on the second beat, “Hatto”
on the third.
1. “Hatto”, here and in bar 4, gives a certain emphasis to the
third note in each group. In the first bar the F sticks out
in Thiollier’s performance almost as if accented, while bar
4 is managed more evenly.
3. Thiollier makes a rallentando on the third beat and the F
in the right hand on this third beat is given an almost melodic
weight. “Hatto” make no rallentando and her F does not stand
out from the texture.
9. “Hatto” clears the pedal on the final 8th note
of the bar, Thiollier keeps his foot down.
12-13. Thiollier has a soft, sinuous approach to this passage,
“Hatto” is more robust, with no half-lights to be seen. Could
knob-twiddling do this?
15. Thiollier plays the E flat at the beginning of the second
beat more strongly than that at the beginning of the first.
“Hatto” has them about the same.
16. “Hatto” has an expressive “tenuto” on the first note of
this bar. For once Thiollier is the more literal here.
11-14. Thiollier makes an unmarked rallentando, “Hatto” does
not. In addition, “Hatto” reacts to Debussy’s “più dim” with
a slight crescendo, which Thiollier does not.
15-17. Thiollier suddenly uses a lot of pedal to tease out a
legato melodic line. “Hatto” uses a little more pedal than before
but still keeps the second 8th note of each pair
27. Thollier emphasises the left hand B flats, for “Hatto” the
melodic interest is in the right hand chords.
39 onwards. Debussy has marked the chords in pairs. “Hatto”
makes this very clear, making a legato tie between the first
and second chords, with the second clearly staccato. Thiollier
makes a token attempt at the beginning, then plays the whole
passage legato making it sound rather mysterious.
51-53 (Ritenuto ma con fuoco). “Hatto” either plays these chords
without pedal or with a vibrato pedal that keeps them completely
clear. Thiollier surrounds the whole passage with a cloud of
64 and 66. Thiollier has a jabbing accent on the beginning of
these two bars, “Hatto” none.