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Hommage à Alfred Cortot
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
La Mort d'Isolde, S.447 (arr. Liszt) [6:28]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Deux Légendes, S.175[18:52]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Miserere, S.433 (arr. Liszt) [9:26]
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Piano sonata no.3 in B minor, op.58 [26:44]
Florence Delaage (piano)
rec. Temple St Michel, Paris, 15 June 2012.
CALLIOPE CAL1316 [63:10]

To mark the fiftieth anniversary in 2012 of the death of the legendary pianist Alfred Cortot (1877-1962), French pianist Florence Delaage gave a recital in Paris. This was recorded and issued on this CD. Incredibly, given the time differential, Delaage was a pupil of Cortot's for the last five years of his life, having impressed him in concert at the age of seventeen. Cortot famously described her as the daughter he had never had. He bequeathed his two pianos to her: she can be heard playing some of Cortot's favourite music on one of them on a brace of recent recordings for Calliope's parent label Indésens (INDE 020, 031).
Delaage is pictured on the front cover as Cortot would have known her; on the back cover, as she is now, half a century on. In her seventies then, at an age where many might be playing bridge in a retirement home, Delaage is still tackling the phenomenally demanding music of Franz Liszt, and doing it with the power and style that would shame some pianists half her age.
At this stage in her career she is not interested in going mano a mano with the countless scores of pianists that have recorded Chopin's B minor Sonata - or any of the Liszt works, for that matter. Her recital, rather, is a simple tribute to a great teacher, fondly remembered, and one that should be listened to and understood in that light. Arguably, Cortot's unique pianism was more about style than superlatives. Delaage, for her part, does not radiate the same obvious magnetism, but neither does she emulate her teacher's infamous wrong notes. In fact, for those who like their Chopin and Liszt with less Sturm und Drang, Delaage's measured, thoughtful playing is much more satisfying to listen to.
She can also be heard in excellent sound, not a characteristic associated with any of Cortot's extant recordings. It is only really through the applause right at the end of the disc that the listener becomes aware that this has been a recital captured live.
A paper shortage in France is presumably behind the ultra-dense, ultra-small, margin-crushing type Calliope have used in their booklet. With forty-seven lines per 4-inch page, the text is decidedly awkward to read, but there is much well-written detail to make it worth the effort.
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