Yvonne Lefébure (1904-1986) is probably best known to
the general collector as a rare soloist with Wilhelm Furtwängler
in Mozart’s Piano Concerto 20 (Lugano, live
in 1954, currently available on EMI). The interesting booklet
notes to the present release explain why there is so little available
by her. She recorded for the FY label (which became Solstice).
The contents of this disc were originally released on the Vogue
label and, later, on a Coup d’Archet LP. Lefébure
left her recordings and their rights to Yvette and François
Caribou, and the belated realisation of this has led to the present
release on their label, Solstice.
Lefébure’s Couperin is a delight. The famous Tic-Toc-Choc
magnificently articulated. It is presented here in the edition
by Louis Diémer: more of an arrangement than an edition,
in truth. The performance of Les barricades mistérieuses
indeed mysterious by nature, so much so that the next sounds
we hear, the opening chords of the first Debussy Prélude
de Delphes”, are not in fact a million miles away.
Lefébure’s Debussy can be explosive (“Le vent
dans la plaine”) but it can also be haltingly beautiful
(“Les sons et les parfumes”). The inner, near-tremolando,
lines of “Les collines d’Anacapri” could perhaps
have been more even, but her minimum-pedal approach to later
passages in this Prélude
pays off handsomely. It
is in the fragility of “Des pas sur le neige” that
she is most successful. She spreads many chords in the West Wind
but seems to enjoy its extroversion, highlighting the simple
lines of “La fille aux chevaux de lin”. Puck is marvellously
capricious, but perhaps most impressive here is the pianist’s
way with Debussy’s counterpoint in the final stages. “Minstrels” is
full of humour.
The recording cannot quite convey the grandeur of “La cathédrale
engloutie”, and a little more depth overall would be welcome.
Two Etudes act as appendices, taking Debussy’s language
on further. The one for the arpeggios is magical in Lefébure’s
hands the “Etude pour les sonorités opposées” perhaps
misses some of the mystery.
The first piece of Roussel’s Op. 49 is immediately more
acerbic, more biting in the first movement; although not designated
as such, a toccata. The charm of the central allegro grazioso
is allied to a keen wit. The finale, also the longest movement
at 3:52, contains the most angst before closing in a delicate
swirl of unmistakably Gallic notes.
An unfortunate typo on the back cover claims that Roussel lived
for 268 years. His correct dates are given above. Nevertheless,
this remains an interesting document of an interesting pianist.