Yvonne Lefébure (piano)
(ORTF/Manuel Rosenthal?) in the Barraud Concerto
SOLSTICE SOCD283/85 [3 CDs: 72:07 + 66:57 + 73:29]
The latest Solstice contribution to the art of pianist Yvonne Lefébure (1898-1986) is not new to disc, as a small note on the back of this 3-CD set makes clear. Some items have previously been released on SOCS 133-35 and 959. The recording dates range from 1945 in the case of the Henri Martelli Dances to the lengthiest sequence, which contains the pieces by Rameau, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Brahms, Liszt, Bartók and Dukas: all these were taped in 1971.
Lefébure’s Rameau is represented by the Gavotte et six doubles and forms part of a largely ‘variation-and-fantasy’ first CD. She was around 73 when she played this 1971 recital but sounds in fine estate technically. She has never struck me as always ideally sympathetic in this repertoire, at least not when one listens to a contemporary of hers such as Marcelle Meyer. However she characterises the Rameau particularly well and tends to cement these admirable qualities in some perceptive Bach playing in the Fantasie and Fugue BWV542. Her choice of Haydn’s Variations was clearly no accident, given her programme-building precepts and she plays it imaginatively and with deft articulation. Her Mozart choices are consonant. The two Fantasies are strongly argued, not least the dramatically rolled chords of K396. Her performance of the sonata K457 is certainly not prettified, but neither is it stolid. There’s no trace here of the dry, precision-tooled earlier French style propagated by one of her erstwhile teachers, Marguerite Long. The brief extracts from the Schubert sonata unfortunately don’t tell us too much about her affinities.
Another of her teachers was Cortot, who represented a wholly different aesthetic from that of Marguerite Long. From 1971 again comes a sequence of works associated with Cortot, Chopin’s Mazurkas and the Barcarolle Op.60. The Mazurkas are perhaps best represented in her case by Op.17 No.4 which is fluid but expressive. She has a few trivial technical problems with the Barcarolle - she had small hands. More consistently impressive are the pieces by Schumann, Papillons and the Fantaisie, which show what a tonally and expressively communicative artist she could be. She shows, as had Cortot before her, real affinities for Schumann’s music.
Given the relative lack of stretch and the fact that was well into her eighth decade, one might fear for her Liszt. She plays the Ballade, La gondola funèebre and Spinnerlied S 273. She doesn’t sound daunted by the Ballade, indeed she sounds fearless, if not quite of the first rank of Lisztians. She captures the sepulchral gondola gloom, and through clarity of articulation bringsSpinnerlied richly to life. Dance is a component of this last disc; Bartók’s Book VI of Mikrokosmos provides opportunities for animated vitality. Fortunately she is not percussive, and doesn’t sound metallic or detached in the six short character pieces. Henri Martelli (1895-1980) wrote his Five Dances Op.47 in 1941. They were taped here a few years later. These five movements offer a vivid sequence of stylised neo-classical dances. Some, like the penultimate dance, a passacaglia, are quite extended at five minutes in length. They are valuable discoveries and are played with great concern for balance and movement. Paul Dukas’s La plainte au loin du faune is an elliptical piece derived from Debussy. This actually ends the programme but before it comes a puzzle. This is a 1960 performance of Henry Barraud’s 1939 Piano Concerto, given live. I can find no orchestra or conductor’s name in the booklet. I’ve not searched exhaustively but I suspect Manuel Rosenthal is the conductor. Perhaps someone can confirm this. Barraud (1900-97) writes a very breezy, extrovert neo-classical affair with a theatrical and dramatic slow movement. He has a sense of humour in the finale too.
This is the only concerto performance. Otherwise it’s solo Lefébure. Whilst the sound quality is inevitably variable in the earlier tapes, it’s never less than very adequate. The performances throughout are a good deal more than that.
Solo Lefébure. Sound quality variable but never less than very adequate. Performances a good deal more than that.
Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764)
Gavotte and 6 doubles [6:16]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Fantasy and Fugue BWV 542 [10:45]
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Variations in F major Hob: XVII/6 (1793) [8:48]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Fantasie K 396 [6:11]
Fantasie K475 [10:17]
Sonata for keyboard K457 [14:35]
Variations "Ah ! Vous dirais-je maman" K265 [6:06]
Sonata 19 Op. D 958 - extracts only [8:21]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Mazurkas Op. 41/2 [1:56]: Op.17/4 [3:39]: Op.7/5 [2:40]: Op.56/2 [1:30]: Op.7 No.3 [2:18]
Barcarolle Op.60 [8:23]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Papillons Op. 2 (1832) [12:21]
Fantasy Op. 17 (1836) [27:03]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Intermezzo Op. 119/1 (1892) [2:16]: Intermezzo Op. 118/6 (1892) [4:03]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Ballad S 178 (1853) [12:27]
La gondole fenèbre S 200 (1835) [7:41]
Spinnerlied S 273 [4:47]
Bela BARTOK (1881-1945)
Mikrokosmos - VI. (6 Dances in Bulgarian rhythm) [8:09]
Henry BARRAUD (1900-1997)
Piano Concerto (1939) [19:57]
Henri MARTELLI (1895-1980)
Five Dances Op. 47 (1941) [15:47]
Paul DUKAS (1865-1935)
La plainte au loin du faune [4:04]
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