Paris Memories (Alain Lefèvre)
Alain Lefèvre (piano) (Warner Classics)
Debussy: Pour le piano; Ballade etc; Franck: Prélude, Fugue et Variation Op. 18; Dubois: Piano Sonata; Études de concert – selection
Alain Lefèvre (piano)
Warner Classics 5419738199 76:37 mins
This sequel to Alain Lefèvre’s first album for Warner Classics, My Paris Years, collects a mixture of lesser-and well-known French music: the Prélude, Fugue and Variation by César Franck, a handful of Debussy pieces and works by Lefèvre’s teacher and friend Pierre Max Dubois, including a 1985 Sonata written for the pianist.
Lefèvre’s muscular playing does not always showcase the qualities of his chosen repertoire. The slightly wooden Franck piece is not improved in this stiff rendition. The improvisatory Lento, drawing on the common historic practice of preluding, to prepare the short fugue, could sound more spontaneous. The beautifully composed Variation could have far more tenderness and intimacy, especially given its dense textures.
Debussy’s exquisite Rêverie sounds extraordinarily bright, with unexpected halts in its flow. The playing is easily virtuosic but the keyboard sound is too aggressive for my ear. I would love more judicious shading, especially in the fuller playing. Pour le piano, normally so skittish and delightful, has a touch of violence here more appropriate to Shostakovich.
Lefèvre is capable of magically quiet playing, and each instance of this is welcome. The rare moments which reveal the inward, vulnerable and reflective qualities of the repertoire are a pleasure.
The Dubois pieces are an attractive discovery, though Lefèvre’s playing remains resolutely extrovert. ‘Oubanghi’, named for an African river, evoked a factory, not water. The four-movement Sonata which closes the album is rewarding, its highly physical pianism suiting Lefèvre very well.