Gaspard de la nuit
Cerdaña cinq études pittoresques pour le piano: No.4 Les Muletiers devant le Christ de Llivia
Prélude, chorale et fugue
Préludes Book II: Feuilles mortes; La puerta del vino; Les fées sont d’exquises danseuses; La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune; Feux d’artifice
Cédric Tiberghien (piano)
Reviewed by: Douglas Cooksey
Reviewed: 29 June, 2005
Venue: Linbury Studio Theatre at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
This recital formed part of a very short season at the Linbury featuring the work of the Théâtre Français de la Musique, which is based at Théâtre Impérial de Compiègne. The Théâtre Impérial was the brainchild of Napoleon III built on the same site as the Carmelite Convent in Poulenc’s “Dialogues de Carmélites” but it was never completed because of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. In 1987 it was renovated and, according to Giulini, its auditorium boasts one of the most perfect acoustics in the world.
Since one of the stated objectives of the Théâtre Français is “to restore an authentic French style in both singing and orchestral playing” it was fitting that Cédric Tiberghien should have been invited to participate since he is a distinctive exponent of le style français, with its characteristic care for timbre and clarity. Tiberghien has also been selected as one of the BBC’s New Generation Artists, so London and Radio 3 listeners will be hearing much from him over the coming couple of years.
Whether it was wise of him to reverse the advertised order of the programme first half and launch the evening with Gaspard de la nuit is a moot point. It received a limpid, understated performance, at its heart a particularly slow and hypnotic rendering of ‘Le gibet’. Contrary to one’s expectations, the Linbury’s acoustic for a piano recital was more than acceptable and it would be a good idea if the theatre were used regularly for instrumental concerts.
Déodat de Sévérac is little remembered now but despite being framed by two of the most famous piano pieces in the French repertoire, Tiberghien’s performance of ‘Les Muletiers devant le Christ de Llivia’ was actually the high point of the recital’s first half. Beautiful, tender and contemplative music completely undeserving of its neglect and quite beautifully performed – with finesse and sensitivity. The Franck that followed may not have had the sheer weight of some other performances but its sections elided into each other naturally and built to a glowing final climax.
Opening the second half, Chopin’s Barcarolle was notable for its fastidiously poised understatement. At the close, for once, the right-hand was reduced to the finest filigree, which allowed the melody in the left to sing through. This level of restraint was slightly less convincing in the Ballade in G minor (Op.23), Tiberghien’s encore, which for all its subtlety, tended to lose impetus.
The group of Debussy Préludes, all from Book II, found a natural interpreter in Tiberghien, their sounds frequently hanging near motionless in the air, yet elsewhere with plenty of vigour as in the brusque juxtaposition of “extreme violence and passionate tenderness” (Debussy’s marking) in the Spanish-inflected ‘La puerta del vino’. Since ‘Les fées sont d’exquises danseuses’ had its origins in an illustration to J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan” and the set then culminated with an unannounced ‘Feux d’artifice’, which quotes the Marseillaise, Tiberghien complimented his English hosts and let France have the last word.