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Sergio Tiempo (piano)
rec. live 13 October 2016, Studio Arsonic, Mons, Belgium
Reviewed in SACD stereo.
AVANTI CLASSIC 541470610492 SACD [73:58]

This remarkable recital has been put together by Sergio Tiempo based on aspects of his family, each piece associated with the character of a particular person in mind. The inside of the CD packaging is full of family photos, including one of little Sergio at the age of three, dwarfed by a grand piano at his first recital. The cover portrait was draw by his father, Martin Tiempo.

The fear for this kind of concept is that it will become something sentimental, but any such idea is blown out of the water with a performance of Beethoven’s Appassionata sonata that is fiery indeed. This stands for “my mother’s passionate, vehement and generous personality.” The more I’ve played this disc the less I would be inclined to cling to these personal associations, preferring just to enjoy the performances for what they are – sincere and authentic renderings of music that has a great deal of meaning to the artist in question. It is however such an essential element of the programme that the commentary cannot be ignored.

Comparisons with other recordings are rather superfluous here. This is the kind of piano disc that you will want to have handy when you feel jaded and fed up with oft-heard studio productions. This is a live performance and very much has that feeling, though aside from at the end the applause has been removed and the audience is very well behaved indeed, no doubt on the edge of their seats from beginning to end. The Beethoven is vital and energetic, at times to the point almost of violence, but this has more to do with the energy Tiempo invests in the performance, not an expression of aggression. The contrast with an utterly limpid opening to the Brahms Intermezzo could hardly be greater, but Tiempo again has a core of steel in the way he reaches the climax of this piece. These two Brahms pieces are relatively good-natured and gentle, the depths and poignant intensity of the Intermezzo a reflection of Sergei’s sister Karin Lechner, the Waltz a piece he sometimes used to play for his son Nelson to help him sleep.
The selection of pieces from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet has its connection in the “transformation from child to adult” in the teenage years. Sergio’s niece Natascha Binder’s personality emerges through the fairy-tale nature of the music and the story it represents. Tiempo’s playing is quixotic and exciting, with plenty of jewel-like poetry and playfulness contrasting with a majestically orchestral Montagues and Capulets.

Sergio Tiempo has chosen Reflets dans l’eau as a self-portrait, revealing how he harbours “a more introverted and contemplative nature” than he lets people see, but also delivering a rhapsodic interpretation that has plenty of fireworks. The Chopin Preludes, by turns spectacular and deeply emotionally searching, are an affectionate bow towards “you, my audience, my other family member.”

Villa-Lobos’ A Prole do BebÍ is new to me, the playing of Nelson Freire being Tiempo’s own inspiration. These have been chosen with reference to Sergio’s daughter Mila, but there is very little that is childish about these sophisticated and technically demanding works. Such discoveries demand further exploration, but Tiempo’s performances of “these little jewels” are inspiring indeed. Ginastera’s Malambo reflects but a few aspects of Sergio’s wife Maud in its “vitality, fierce tenacity and heroic energy.” She was apparently a bit miffed as to this choice to start with, but her romantic side is really none of our business after all. Sergio’s father Martin has a love of jazz, tango and Brazilian music that sees its expression in Piazzolla’s Fuga y Misterio, a very fitting finale indeed.

For us piano fans, this is the kind of album that will be spun red-hot and devoured avidly on a regular basis, such is its verve and life-enhancing atmosphere. I’ve admired Tiempo’s playing in the similarly spontaneous sounding Live from Lugano collections, and this admirably produced SACD recording has both depth and character in the sound, aptly conveying both the artistry in performance and the electric atmosphere of the event.

Dominy Clements

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata in F minor No. 23, Op.57 ‘Appassionata’ [23:53]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Intermezzo in B minor No. 1, Op. 119 [4:34]
Waltz in A flat major No.15 Op. 39 [1:41]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Romeo & Juliet, ten pieces for piano, Op. 75
IV. Juliet as a youing girl [3:28]
VI. Montagues and Capulets [3:36]
IX. Dance of the girls with the lilies [2:22]
VIII. Mercutio [2:08]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Images, Book 1
Reflets dans l’eau (1905) [4:57]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
24 Preludes op. 28
VI. Prelude in B minor [2:03]
III. Prelude in G major [0:54]
IV. Prelude in E minor [2:12]
VIII. Prelude in F sharp minor [1:52]
XV. Prelude in D flat major [4:38]
XVI. Prelude in B flat minor [1:06]
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
A Prole do BebÍ, Libro I (1918)
Branquinha [2:33]
Moreninha [1:33]
O Polichinelo [1:24]
A pobrezinha [1:50]
Alberto GINASTERA (1916-1983)
Malambo Op. 7 [2:21]
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Fuga y Misterio [4:53]



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