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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 21, No. 2 October 2015

CD Reviews

by René-François Auclair and Caroline Rodgers / October 1, 2015

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Stéphane Tétreault, Marie-Ève Scarfone
Haydn, Schubert and Brahms
Analekta. AN2 9994. 66 min 31s

This recording is a lovely recital full of contrast. At the heart of the program lies the well-loved composer, Schubert, and it is his music that young cellist Tétreault delivers with all the love and ineffable sense of musicality he has mastered at the tender age of 22. His fondness for the voluptuous sound of his instrument is clear, and he plays it with uncompromising generosity in the most highly regarded sonata ever composed for the arpeggione.
Stéphane Tétreault and Marie-Ève Scarfone follow and complement each other well as they navigate the incessant waves and unpredictable movement of music that loses itself in a melody freed from all restraint. This is Schubert in the truest sense!
Tétreault’s immense talent becomes clear when the listener realizes that their focus is solely on the music and not on the musician. His way of making each note sing, of suspending the tempo for one measure, of slowing a cadence to allow an emotion to bloom...it is true artistry. Tétreault and Scarfone’s performance may be the most beautiful version of Arpeggione to date, and for years to come...
The opening track by Haydn is pleasing and Tétreault clearly enjoy’s the work’s virtuosity. The Brahms breathes deeply. His sonata is difficult and intense, but impressive in its humanity.
The sound recording is fairly well done but is lacking a bit in transparency. It is not clear why Analekta seems to favour a dense acoustic, and rather unfortunate, as the performance takes us so close to the heavens. R.F.A

Ottorino Respighi
Il Tramonto. Gli Uccelli
Botticelliano. Suite no 1 Antiche
Isabel Bayrakdarian, soprano.
OSL. Alain Trudel, conductor.
Atma. ACD22732. 67 min 25 s

This debut recording by the Orchestre symphonique de Laval displays an ensemble in full possession of its means. There is plenty of talent to be found on the other side of Rivière des Prairies. Any preconceived notion of “the others” is cleared up quite quickly.
They may not have the “shimmer” of some of more prestigious ensembles, but even the most renowned orchestras can leave the listener a bit cold. Alain Trudel’s OSL offers plenty of warmth in its interpretation. Respighi’s music is so beautifully presented that the listener can almost see the marvellous images of the great frescos. The generous treatment of the sound recording goes a long way and is one of Atma’s best to date. These sumptuous canvases, as wide as they are tall, showcase all instruments without exception. This recording is a truly satisfying listening experience.
Il Tramonto, presented as the main work on the disc, seems somehow less important. The lyric poem is neither lacking in writing quality nor in inspiration. Yet the slightly hard edge in Armenian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian’s voice and her less than perfect Italian diction keep the listener from fully enjoying the performance. Her expressiveness in this little-known work, however, is lovely. The success of this recording truly lies in the orchestral works, and is where the ravishing beauty unfolds. La colomba, for example, is an ecstatic moment of joy. The listener is left wishing for a second volume with the OSL, who seem perfectly at ease with the music of such an endearing composer. R.F.A

David Jalbert
Poulenc and Satie. Works for piano
ATMA Classique. ACD2 2683. 67 min 42 s

Quebec pianist David Jalbert invites music lovers to enjoy the simple pleasures of Erik Satie and Francis Poulenc. This new album offers a thoughtful combination, but sadly without the Gnossiennes. However, the three Gymnopédies, slow and velvety, recall the sensation of walking on moss in a quiet woodland glade. Jalbert brings out the elegance and refinement of the three Improvisations by Poulenc, and takes his time for Les trois valses distinguées du précieux dégoûté, which are like whimsical little tales with their own imagery. One would have preferred less restraint and more freedom in his rendition of Poulenc’s Les Soirées de Nazelles, which lacks the crazy cabaret zest in the spirit of the era and the high society that inspired the work. CR

Louis Lortie et Hélène Mercier
BBC Philharmonic, Edward Gardner, conductor
Piano concertos
Aubade. CHAN 10875. 77 min 44 s

It’s good to see this duo is back, and the result exceeds expectations. This Poulenc recording is bursting with life, colour, and verve. The young British conductor Edward Gardner, impressive at the MSO podium in 2013, shows he has the makings of greatness with his obviously thorough understanding of the music of Poulenc and a reading sure to wow listeners. The generous CD comprises the Concerto pour piano and Concerto pour deux pianos, as well as the wonderful Embarquement pour Cythère, Aubade, Sonate four hands, and the Élégie. There’s not a dull moment in this vibrant, addictive recording. The playing is highly expressive and the symbiosis of the two pianists brings forth a rich variety of nuance and musical ideas. This recording is a huge success that all piano devotees should have in their collection. CR

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