WORKS: Gnossiennes; Ogives; Sarabandes; Gymnopédies; Petite ouverture à danser
PERFORMER: Reinbert de Leeuw (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 446 672-2 DDD
As the opening bars of the first Gnossienne wafted out of my hi-fi, this disc brought back memories of accidentally playing records at the wrong speed, sometimes with enlightening results. It is difficult to decide whether Reinbert de Leeuw is being visionary or simply self-indulgent. Perhaps it is both. At his best, de Leeuw creates a bewitching sense of an eternal present, but at his worst he seems to come perilously close to a complete standstill with the aural equivalent of Valium. On repeated listening, however, the first Gnossiennes certainly felt less arthritic, although that might be due to the even more ponderous renditions of the Gymnopédies.
Slightly more disconcerting is de Leeuw’s approach to rubato. If he allowed his right hand to roam free of his left, instead of in exact synchronisation, I might not have felt so seasick after the fourth and fifth Gnossiennes. It is also a shame that, on a recording in which each moment of sound can be appreciated for its timbral richness, the bass register is occasionally surprisingly weak.
Nevertheless, despite my qualms, this is a disc which is worth investigating for the inimitable nature of de Leeuw’s transcendentalist readings. Christopher Dingle