Visions fugitives, Op.22
Bagatelle sans tonalité, S216a; Mephisto Waltz No.4, S696; La lugubre gondola, S200 [second version]; Csárdás macabre, S224
Pictures at an Exhibition
Cédric Tiberghien (piano)
Reviewed by: David Truslove
Reviewed: 14 November, 2017
Venue: Turner Sims Concert Hall, Southampton University, Hampshire, England
Cédric Tiberghien’s debut at Turner Sims was memorable for an artfully conceived programme and for his beautifully manicured tone, pianissimos, and delicacy of expression. Virtuosity was readily apparent too.
Prokofiev’s pre-Revolution Visions fugitives comprises twenty short pieces, fleeting images with an inexhaustible fund of ideas that impulsively veer off in unpredictable harmonic and melodic directions, and also possess an engaging spontaneity. Whether in gentle musing or in propulsive rhythms, Tiberghien could be daringly remote or fiercely brutal, an inspirational narrator revealing the quiet mystery or sheer devilry of these gems.
Juxtaposing Prokofiev with a selection of Liszt’s ‘late’ works was a neat move. It shone a light on this visionary music, reaching its peak in the Bagatelle, played with crystalline articulation and, like the Mephisto Waltz, dispatched with fearless assurance. The top end of the Steinway didn’t always best serve Liszt’s interests, fortissimos more brittle than brilliant. Tiberghien’s ability to capture the essence of a piece was beautifully achieved in the intimacy of La lugubre gondola (Liszt’s premonition of Richard Wagner’s death) and the bombast of Csárdás macabre.
Tiberghien gave full rein to his imagination in Pictures at an Exhibition, a tribute by Mussorgsky to his artist-friend Viktor Hartmann, and best-known in Ravel’s orchestration, but the original is no less vivid. In this well-paced rendition, Tiberghien fared best in the dream-like ‘Il vecchio castello’, ‘Tuileries’ was suitably graceful, and ‘Ballet of the Chicks in their Shells’ was incisively caught. Fistfuls of notes were dashed down with precision for the chattering women in ‘The marketplace at Limoges’ that gave way to the eerie ‘Catacombs’ and the drama of ‘Baba-Yaga’ (the latter with ferocious energy) through to a bravura and stirring ‘Great Gate of Kiev’.
For an encore Tiberghien offered Ravel’s ‘Oiseaux tristes’ (from Miroirs), confirming his mastery of colour and expression.