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CD: Crotchet AmazonUK

François COUPERIN (1668-1733)
Troisième Livre, 18me Ordre, No. 6, Le Tic-toc-choc (published 1722, ed/arr Diémer) [1:57]
Deuxième Livre, Sixième Ordre, No. 5, Les Baricades mistérieuses (published 1717, ed/arr Diémer) [1:36]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Préludes, Book 1 (1910) [32:54]
Etudes (1915): Pour les arpèges composés [4’32]; Pour les sonorités opposées [4:26]
Albert ROUSSEL (1869-1937)
Trois Pièces, Op. 49 (1933) [6:39]
Yvonne Lefébure (piano)
rec. Maison de Radio-France, Paris, 1969 (Couperin), 1970 (Debussy) and 1971 (Roussel). Etudes unspecified. ADD
SOLSTICE SOCD239 [52:25]
Experience Classicsonline

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 is 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 is indeed mysterious by nature, so much so that the next sounds we hear, the opening chords of the first Debussy Prélude, “Danseuses 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.

Colin Clarke 


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