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Dunelm Records


Vanessa Latarche (piano)
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
The Well-Tempered Clavier Book I, BWV 846-869 (1722)
Prelude and Fugues Nos. 3 in C sharp major [3:31], 4 in C sharp minor [6:43], 5 in D major [3:29], 22 in B flat minor [5:13]
The Well-Tempered Clavier Book II, BWV 870-893 (1742)
Prelude and Fugue No.14 in F sharp minor [7:18]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Prelude and Fugue No.1 in E minor (publ.1842) [9:18]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Waltz No.11 in G flat Op.70 No.1 [2:14]
Ballade No.3 in A flat major (1841) [7:30]
Vanessa Latarche (piano)
rec. Seventh Chetham’s International Summer School and Festival for Pianists, 23 August 2007
Experience Classicsonline


A Celebrity Recital requires a celebrity and so whilst Vanessa Latarche is not (yet) a celebrity perhaps a few words about her may be in order. She studied at the R.C.M. in London and later in America and France. She’s active as a recitalist and accompanist – principally an instrumental accompanist – and has broadcast on BBC Radio. She was professor of piano at the R.A.M in London and is now Head of Keyboard at her alma mater whilst also being a diploma trainer and trainer of new examiners. She’s also a new member of the teaching faculty at Chetham’s summer school – this was her first visit.

She certainly nailed some intellectual colours to the mast in her recital which is top heavy with Preludes and Fugues. She selected four such from Book I of the “48” and one from Book II adding, for good measure, the E minor Prelude and Fugue of one of Bach’s most fervent admirers and “rediscoverers”, Mendelssohn. At the concert she then moved into romantic waters with the A flat major Ballade of Chopin and ended with an encore of his G flat major Waltz, Op.70 No.1. On disc the two Chopin pieces have been reversed; we end with the Ballade and then twenty seconds or so of applause. The whole recital lasts three quarters of an hour.

It so happens that I have been listening to Craig Sheppard’s recently released complete Book I, also recorded in concert, though in his case in the home of Transatlantic latte, Seattle. The differences are instructive and once again show the wide latitude open to pianists when playing these Olympian works. To be brief she prefers a weightier touch, a more directional approach and a less detailed exploration of colour. One can argue about such things indefinitely, infinitely, but comparisons are useful in teasing out their imperatives in this music. Latarche prefers a less pliant, less nuanced approach. It can sound a touch stolid after Sheppard’s lighter textured and limpidly voiced terpsichorean playing. But Latarche is consistent in her aims and she brings strong intellectualism to bear. They are, in any case, very different ways of approaching the “48” – Sheppard constantly evoking texture, weight, light and colour with pinpoint precision, whilst Latarche, who never wallows tempo-wise, seems to belong to a rather different tradition. I did feel however that her left hand voicings in the C sharp minor Prelude were under-inflected and heavy, adding to a sense of immobility that does sometimes emerge in these performances.

Her Mendelssohn Prelude and Fugue is strongly projected and serves as a fine piece of historically and musically minded programming. The Chopin Waltz is less successful. It’s keen-edged but stop-starts rhythmically and doesn’t flow at all naturally – the rubato is too free for my tastes. The Ballade ideally needs a greater range of colours and a stronger sense of finesse.

This is Vanessa Latarche’s disc calling card. It’s only forty-five minutes in length but preserves her recital in its entirety thanks to the fine sounding Dunelm recording set up.

Jonathan Woolf


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