Monday February 19, 2018 12:25 am

JOIE DE VIVRE personified!


Thibaudet On Location Residency: THE CONCERTS

Grieg’s Concerto, plain and simple

Jean-Yves Thibaudet - sideview photoThe billing for the last big event of the residency was quite straightforward. Perhaps because there is only one, so popular that it is recognizable to almost Everyman, GRIEG’S CONCERTO, plain and simple, served the bill. The centerpiece of concerts held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion over a weekend in which one month flowed into the next (November 31, December 1 & 2), it played between an unfamiliar two-movement piece from GEORGE ENESCU’s Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C major and BEETHOVEN’s less familiar freedom-or-death overture (Leonore 2&3 being the better known) – Egmont: Overture and Incidental Music. All works were performed under the masterly direction of LAWRENCE FOSTER

EDWARD GRIEG, like GERSHWIN, was a master of the “miniature” musical form – songs and short piano pieces. And just as the Concerto in F is Gershwin’s only piano concerto, Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor is the Norwegian composer’s only one. But it has held its own, near the top of all-time favorites, ever since it was composed in 1868. The concerto’s portentous opening belies the sweet, romantic lyricism that emerges not many bars after the first virtuosic sweep of the keyboard and – it is soon realized – underlies the entire work. And this tunefulness – or “pretty music,” to borrow GEORGE BERNARD SHAW’s epithet for Grieg’s works, is the likely reason for both its endearment to the public and its belittlement by critics.

But obviously not by JEAN-YVES THIBAUDET. This unabashed Romantic is no snob! He embraces GRIEG (and LISZT and CHOPIN and RACHMANINOV and TCHAIKOVSKY and yes, ADDINSEL of Warsaw Concerto fame) as he does RAVEL and DEBUSSY (and BEETHOVEN and MENDELSSOHN and MESSIAEN and GERSHWIN), and plays their music on center stage with genuine fondness, rescuing them from the condescension of critics. As he did when he played GRIEG’s Piano Concerto during this residency – imparting power to the big chords and impeccable delicacy to the filigreed trills, with a fervor to match his elegant virtuosity. His brilliant technique never fails to reinvigorate and legitimize familiar concert pieces, and when the chemistry between him and the conductor is right such as between him and FOSTER, Grieg’s “too familiar” Concerto can sound as if you were hearing it for the very first time, as it did during this residency – an instant dissociation of contempt from familiarity. And much appreciated by an audience who were clearly moved by the performance.

The celebrated concert pianist is also a chamber musician:

During the residency, Jean-Yves showed another facet of his artistic personality that is seldom seen in the US:* chamber musician par excellence, as at home in an intimate concert setting as on the big stage, willing and eager to share the limelight with lesser known fellow musicians.

Playing the piano part at a sold-out concert of chamber music with members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra held at the Skirball Cultural Center’s Ahmanson Hall on November 26, he performed RAVEL’s Sonata for Violin and Piano with principal concertmaster MARTIN CHALIFOUR and Poulenc’s Sextet for Piano and Winds with members of the orchestra’s wind ensemble. The program also included Three Madrigals for Violin and Viola and DEBUSSY’s String Quartet.

Chamber music is a regular component of Jean-Yves’ performance calendar. He has performed often in Europe with the ROSSETTI QUARTET with whom he will appear for the first time in US performances – at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC in the spring of 2002 and at Carnegie Hall in 2003.

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