Hélène Grimaud – Resonances [Mozart, Berg, Liszt, Bartók]

0 of 5 stars

Piano Sonata in A minor, K310
Piano Sonata, Op.1
Piano Sonata in B minorBartók
Romanian Folk Dances

Hélène Grimaud (piano)

Recorded September 2010 in Rundfunk-Zentrum, Berlin

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: October 2010
CD No: DG 477 8766
Duration: 69 minutes



The Mozart Piano Sonata that begins this recital – a typically imaginative concept-album from Hélène Grimaud – juxtaposes the Austria of Mozart and Berg, and the Hungary of Liszt and Bartók, and also the very different one-movement piano sonatas of Berg and Liszt. Resonances, indeed.

The opening movement of the Mozart is peculiarly phrased, sometimes hesitant, mostly nervously unsettled. It will divide opinion. Yet the very difference of Grimaud’s approach is of interest, and mostly convincing; certainly hers is an individual interpretation, and welcome as such, and her turbulent and edgy view of the first movement (while remaining Classical with the observance of all repeats) holds the attention. The slow movement offers breadth, balm, and contrasts, to which Grimaud brings heartfelt intuition, and the work is completed by a restless and sonorous finale. After this the harmonic unpredictability, which Grimaud stresses, of Alban Berg’s concise Piano Sonata is both shocking and riveting (although Grimaud has already unearthed surprises in the Mozart); this is Berg made intensely voluptuous, his music aflame with everything, both musically and worldly.

For Liszt’s remarkable Piano Sonata (not that Berg’s example cannot also be thought this), Grimaud’s perception of its 30-minute whole is that of a living organism, one full of devilry and emotional vibrancy, that is always in search of an ultimate goal, which turns out to be its beginning; if the slower sections could do with a little more spirituality, suggesting that they come from somewhere beyond, then Grimaud certainly has the measure of the work’s long-line, and brings to it much that is coruscating and thrilling, rhetorical yet focussed, and also majestically expressive, suggesting Liszt as a Grand Seigneur among composers. As an encore-like envoi, the Bartók dances are spiky and earthy, the original folk-materials and Bartók’s sophisticated treatment of them welded for the connoisseur who also likes the outdoors.

Seemingly recorded in September 2010 and certainly issued (and reviewed) just the following month, Deutsche Grammophon’s rush-release policy has much to commend it, and the performances themselves have a vivid communication, whatever the editing and other post-production, suggesting that Grimaud went for long and spontaneous takes; whether an illusion or not in terms of what we hear, she certainly enjoys recorded sound that is transparent and immediate.

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