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Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum (from Children’s Corner) (1906-8) [2:18]
La Puerta del Vino (from Preludes, Deuxième Livre) (1910-13) [3:22]
Isaac ALBENIZ (1860-1909)
Iberia from Books 1 and 2 (1905-9): Triana [5:08]; Evocation [5:07]; El Corpus Christi en Sevilla [8:58]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Kinderszenen, Op. 15 (1838) [17:22]
Kim Barbier (piano).
rec. March 2012, Teldex Studios Berlin, Siemensvilla.

In this CD of short pieces, the French pianist Kim Barbier demonstrates technical skill, individuality and humility as she plays an eclectic selection of musical vignettes. Taught and mentored by Maria Curcio, a tendency to covey the innermost essence of a work can be felt in each recording. Speaking of the role of pianists, Curcio stated that ‘we must hear what we see and see what we hear’. Disbanding all obfuscating thoughts and distracting concerns, Curcio’s influence is evident in Barbier’s transparency and sense of coherence.
Debussy’s soft, creamy, overflowing collage in Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum is played with bubbling enthusiasm. Spiced with Spanish rhythms and textures, La Puerta del Vino is not played ‘with blatant contrasts of extreme force and passionate tenderness’ (as Debussy wished), but with acute sensitivity and a more moderate feeling. Barbier’s measured contemplative approach adds an interesting sense of introspection; however, taking this angle loses some of the exciting colour and distinction. On the whole, exposing the music in the spaces between the notes, Barbier’s style is gratifyingly insightful. Furthermore, as Debussy observed: ‘much has to be explored and discarded before reaching the naked flesh of feeling.’
Isaac Albeniz composed Iberia between 1905 and 1909. Highly praised by Olivier Messiaen as a ‘wonder for the piano’, it is distinctly impressionistic in style. Barbier gives Evocacion a simultaneously reminiscent and new feel by alluding to the Southern Spanish fandango and Northern Spanish jota song styles but all through a contemporary perspective. Barbier’s performance of El Corpus Christi en Sevilla is played to perfection: melancholy and fervour interchange with the sound of guitars and church bells as the pianist tactfully extracts a vast gamut of sounds and textures. It is worth trying Trio Campanella’s dazzlingly lyrical and winsome performance of Albeniz’s Iberia for three guitars (Naxos 8.557064). It’s heard in a 1995 transcription by Christophe Dejour.
Barbier’s recording of Schumann’s masterful ‘thirty little comical things’ or Kinderszenen, Op. 15 emphasises the work’s jovial simplicity and altercating thoughts. Her interpretation of Hasche-Mann abounds in jollity and vitality, but above all a graceful and alluring elegance is retained. Fast zu erns captures a solitary, sorrowful moment and along with Kind im Einschlummerm is captivatingly pure and honest. Barbier’s integrity is conveyed through her exquisite sense of intimacy and untrammelled directness, clarity and focus. Throughout this CD, each note is played with conscious intent; all superfluity and excess is trimmed away to leave an ebullient core.

Lucy Jeffery