Thursday February 22, 2018 10:42 am

JOIE DE VIVRE personified!


- where Thibaudet the OPERA LOVER joins Thibaudet the PIANO VIRTUOSO

Jean-Yves Thibaudet photos

Photos: courtesy and © Decca/Kasskar

“The voice is the most beautiful musical instrument and my role as an artist is to make the piano sing.”

Jean-Yves Thibaudet's Opera Transcriptions CD

It was some 10 years ago when a fledgling FanFaire first set its sights on the star of a brilliant young pianist named Jean-Yves Thibaudet.  Already it was clear that here was an artist headed for the pantheon of classical music – sequentially making indelible tracks as a concert soloist and recording artist. His album of opera transcriptions by Franz Liszt had recently been released and it quickly became a favorite. Here, we thought, was an extraordinary pianist with the soul of an opera singer.

But could opera in fact have a special meaning to a celebrated pianist, we wondered. When we asked him, he replied with words that were remarkably enlightening and spoken with incredible humility:

“I learn more from opera and from singers than any piano or violin teacher can teach you in a lifetime. Things that should come up in piano lessons but often don’t – breathing, phrasing, legato, making a connected line.

“The voice is the most beautiful musical instrument and my role as an artist is to make the piano sing.”

We came away from that conversation certain that his first album of opera transcriptions was not his last.

Fast forward to February 2007… It is a decade later, his repertoire has grown, his discography expanded. Decca announces the release of Thibaudet’s second transcription album, “ARIA: opera without words”*, and like the first, it is greeted with great acclaim. Not surprisingly, Thibaudet’s star shines brighter than ever.

His performances and recordings glow with his impeccable artistry, inimitable technique, sense of adventure, and youthful joie de vivre – indeed, are enhanced by the maturity and grace that come with age and experience. One can hear it all in “ARIA.” And the intense devotion to opera that informed his first opera album can be felt as strongly, if not more, in his playing of the ten pieces (arranged by various composers or pianists, a couple by Thibaudet himself in collaboration with movie composer-pianist Randy Kerber) that he so thoughtfully assembled for ARIA, as well as in the touching dedication page of the program notes. Same thought, a slightly different choice of words, spoken with unstinting loyalty and undiminished humility:

“Since I was very young, I have loved and been fascinated by the human voice and the operatic repertoire, and over the years it has given me more pleasure and overwhelming emotional feelings than any other form of music.

This is why I would like to dedicate this album to all of the wonderful singers that I have had the great privilege to perform with. These precious collaborations were certainly the most important and rewarding musical experiences of my life, and they were my inspiration for this recording.”

The album has ten tracks – you will find as we did that listening to each one is a singularly rewarding experience. If his intent was to seduce, Jean-Yves could not have chosen a more apt opening than his and Kerber’s transcription of Dalila’s seduction arias. He plays with a delicacy that caresses and soon casts a spell that will take you on an emotional journey that is at various points frolicsome, nostalgic, romantic, thrilling, and rapturous until finally you find yourself riding victorious across the skies to Valhalla, belting a robust “Hojotojo!” with Brünnhilde and the Valkyries!

CLICK on the LINKS below to listen to some clips:

Amour! Viens aider ma faiblesse!Track 1: Fantasy on Two Themes from Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila – arr. Jean-Yves Thibaudet & Randy Kerber”
Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix Track 1: Fantasy on Two Themes from Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila – arr. Jean-Yves Thibaudet & Randy Kerber”
Ramble on the Last Love Duet in R. Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier ** Track 2: arr. Percy Grainger, rev. Jean-Yves Thibaudet”
O mio babbino caro – Lauretta’s aria from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi Track 3: arr. Yvar Mikhashoff”
Glück, das mir verblieb – Marietta’s song from Korngold’s Die tote Stadt Track 4: arr. Jean-Yves Thibaudet & Randy Kerber”
Soirée de Vienne: Concert paraphrase on Waltz themes by Johann Strauss – from Die Fledermaus and other works Track 5: arr. Alfred Grünfeld”
Vissi d’arte – from Puccini’s Tosca Track 6: arr. Yvar Mikhashoff”
Casta diva – from Bellini’s Norma
Track 7: arr. Yvar Mikhashoff”
Mélodie – from the Dance of the Blessed Spirits in Gluck’s Orphee et Eurydice
Track 8: arr. Giovanni Sgambati”
An operatic sonata-fantasy on themes of Puccini in four parts: Prelude – Scherzo:Flower Duet – Nocturne – Finale Track 9: arr. Yvar Mikhashoff”
The Ride of the Valkyries – from Wagner’s Die Walküre
Track 10: arr. arr. Louis Brassin”

In the program notes, Jean-Yves shares a childhood wish:

“Ever since I was the littlest boy, all I wanted to do was sing because the human voice allows you to share the deepest of emotions. Unfortunately, I was not born with the type of voice that one needs for opera or Lieder, but I am thankful every single day that I was given these hands so I can sing.”

And with this wonderful new album, we can all sing along with him.

P.S. And those who are new to the art form hopefully will have been seduced to begin a love affair with opera.



* ARIA was a FanFaire-Decca CD GIVEAWAY in celebration of Jean-Yves and his award of a Victoire d’Honneur.

** ramble is the Australian composer/pianist Percy Grainger’s term for his improvisations.

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