Lullabies by Janáček, Liszt, Lyapunov, Chopin, Villa-Lobos, Bonis, Grieg, Busoni, Brahms, Martinů, Balakirev, Alkan, Bryce Dessner and Helmut Lachenmann
Bertrand Chamayou (piano)
Erato 9029524243 55:15 mins
A charm of lullabies, or an excess? If anyone could convince you that mostly slow and soft can work as an album sequence, it would be sonic magician Bertrand Chamayou. If the spell for me begins to wane some way before the end, that’s not the fault of performer or composers. Within the narrow compass there’s profundity, and subtle variety. Janáček’s ‘Good Night!’ from On an Overgrown Path and the late Liszt Wiegenlied may be easy to play, but their harmonic twists are unique to each composer. Chopin’s Berceuseonly shifts from its hypnotic left-hand notes towards the end, yet places transcendental fantasy above them, cueing the more elaborate Lyapunov piece here and Liszt’s second version of his Berceuse, which sounds improvisational, but not entirely in a good way. Most original are sombre Martinů and Busoni, whose 1909 gem sounds more modern than Bryce Dessner’s Song for Octave, composed especially for this disc – not necessarily a criticism.
There are surprising departures from the serene norm within the lullabies of Grieg and Balakirev, adding malicious sprites and funeral rites respectively to the nocturnal mix. Chamayou weaves everything together in imagination and aerial delicacy, and I love his liner note, which seems like a challenge to the opening of In Search of Lost Time. Certainly this is not a case of Proust’s ‘my eyes closed so quickly that I did not have time to say “I’m going to sleep”’; Chamayou is acutely conscious of the semi-wakeful state, and has recorded his personal homage to that effect.