CD Review - Jean-Yves Thibaudet - Carte Blanche

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CD REVIEW   Carte BlancheCD Review - Jean-Yves Thibaudet
Carte Blanche
Decca 485 2081 [79:09']

When those nice people from Decca, with an eye to business, invited the virtuosic French-American pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet to record his own personal selection for an album celebrating his 60th birthday, they might have shown even more potential sales optimism, for when I tried to order a copy on their Record Store website, I received the message "sorry sold out." (Fortunately, eBay came to the rescue as it often does if you are looking for the best price).

The first five tracks are a specially reworked suite, built on 97 million streams of the opening track Dreams, written by the Italian composer Dario Marianelli for 'Pride and Prejudice', the 2005 film with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyan in the leading roles, on which Thibaudet played the soundtrack accompanied by the English Chamber Orchestra.

The closing track is a charming transcription by Thibaudet of Barber's beautiful Adagio for Strings. Other tracks of interest include Elgar's Salut d'amour, Earl Wild's Embraceable You (one of his 'Seven Virtuoso Etudes on Gershwin Songs'), When You Wish Upon a Star, Charles Trenet's En avril, à Paris, Alec Wilder's I'll Be Around and Morton Gould's brilliant Boogie Woogie Etude, which was a "party piece" for the legendary Russian pianist Shura Cherkassky (d.1995), much admired by Thibaudet and your reviewer, and who wrote Prélude Pathétique included here.

Like everything on the album, the remaining 11 favourite tracks have never been previously recorded by Thibaudet. Some evoke his memories while others have been used as concert encores, with Couperin (Le Tic-Tic-Choc), Schubert, Chopin, Liszt, Brahms, and Villa-Lobos among the composers. There is some dazzling finger work on Pierné's Etude de concert, and Poulenc's Hôtel is one of three world-premiere recordings.

Each piece has a story behind it. The liner notes are unusual in that they go through these in a conversation between the pianist and the versatile and well-loved American soprano Renée Fleming, his friend since they made a disc together 20 years ago.*

Thibaudet has recorded over 50 albums for Decca since 1989 but this is his first for six years. It was recorded in Los Angeles, where he has a home, as recently as 2-5 May 2021. With its selection of lighter music and classical pieces too short to be heavy, it is an appealing release of quality and great value well worth acquiring.

* 'Night Songs' (467 6972)

© Peter Burt 2021

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