Thursday, 14 January 2016

An enticing new release from Somm features the fine partnership of Valerie Tryon and Jac van Steen in works by Debussy, Fauré and Ravel

Before she was twelve, pianist Valerie Tryon www.artset.net/Valerie_Tryon/ValerieTryon_biography.html had broadcast for the BBC and was appearing regularly on the concert platform. She was one of the youngest students ever to be admitted to the Royal Academy of Music where she received the highest award in piano playing and a bursary which took her to Paris for study with Jacques Février.

Since then she has played in most of the major concert halls and appeared with many of the leading orchestras and conductors in Britain. Her career has taken her to North America where she has appeared in such cities as Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Washington, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. She now lives in Canada where she is the Artist-in-Residence at McMaster University whilst spending a part of each year in her native Britain.

She was an early recipient of the Harriet Cohen Medal and more recently the Liszt Memorial Plaque was bestowed on her by the Hungarian Minister of Culture in recognition of her lifelong promotion of Franz Liszt's music. Her repertoire includes more than sixty concertos and a vast amount of chamber music ranging from Bach to contemporary composers.

Valerie Tryon’s latest recording from Somm Recordings www.somm-recordings.com is again with Jac van Steen http://ulsterorchestra.com/about/orchestra/jac-van-steen  and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra www.rpo.co.uk in works by Debussy, Fauré and Ravel.

SOMMCD 258

An early work, Claude Debussy’s (1862-1918) Fantaisie for piano and orchestra was to have been his fourth and final entry for the Prix de Rome in 1888 but was never submitted and was not performed until after his death. Jac van Steen and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra bring a beautifully phrased, atmospheric opening to the Andante ma non troppo - Allegro giusto. When Valerie Tryon enters she lights up the music with playing of tremendous rhythmic panache combined with finely controlled dynamics as well as moments of limpid, crystalline beauty. The RPO also bring some fine sweeping dynamics as the music rises to some quite wonderful peaks.

As the Lento e molto espressivo opens, the orchestra surround the piano with some exquisite, silky, hushed textures. Tryon carefully controls the ebb and flow with wonderful rubato and phrasing, beautifully done with, towards the coda, some lovely rippling piano phases before we are led straight into a rhythmically buoyant Allegro molto. There is some wonderfully spirited playing from the RPO as Tryon bring a fine rhythmic touch. There is much taut playing as the dynamics rise, as well as sensitivity in the poetic passages. The faster passages are full of panache before a glittering coda.

It is Tryon’s ability to bring sudden, almost surprising changes in tempi and dynamics that impresses. This is certainly as fine a performance of Debussy’s Fantaisie as you could wish for.

Gabriel Fauré’s (1845-1924) Ballade for piano and orchestra, Op. 19 started life as a work for solo piano in 1879. It was Franz Liszt (1811-1886) who suggested that Fauré add a few touches of orchestra to highlight certain details, that led to the composer arranging the work for piano and orchestra in 1879-81.

Valerie Tryon brings a disarming simplicity to the opening of the Ballade, sensitively accompanied by Jac van Steen and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra through passages of finely flowing development.  Tryon brings a most beautiful touch, a purity and clarity and, as the music rises through passages of faster, more dynamic playing; she finds much beauty, carrying the listener with her all the way.  Van Steen and the RPO provide an ideal accompaniment subtly enhancing the quieter moments, right through to the quizzical coda.

In 1929, despite concerns over his health Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) was contemplating a world tour for which he needed a piano concerto. The problem was that he had already accepted a commission from pianist Paul Wittgenstein (1887-1961) for a concerto for left hand. The effect of working on the two concertos more or less simultaneously led to a further decline in his health. Nevertheless, in the later part of 1938, Ravel delivered the Concerto for Left Hand and by the end of November 1931 he had completed the Concerto in G. Both concertos were performed in January 1932, the one for left hand in Vienna and the other in Paris. Ravel was ordered to completely rest; therefore, the premiere of the Piano Concerto in G was undertaken by Marguerite Long.

Jac van Steen and the Royal Philharmonic bring a bright pinpoint clarity to accompany Valerie Tryon’s crystalline piano opening to the Allegramente, full of life and energy. They soon bring a slower, more sultry feel with this pianist bringing a more serious stance against a freer and racier orchestral accompaniment. There are many little subtleties here before the piano picks up a pace, seemingly drawn along by the orchestra. Tryon has a terrific rhythmic bounce to her playing as she takes us through some terrific runs on the piano. She brings a fine rubato with the orchestra providing moments of quite special subtlety to contrast magnificently with the raucous outbursts. Tryon’s dissonant, quivering piano phrases are beautifully done before a coda full of sprung rhythms.

The hushed moments of the Allegramente hinted at the likely beauties of the Adagio assai. One is not disappointed.  Here again this pianist brings a beautifully direct simplicity. When the RPO enter they bring a lovely, smooth, silken texture with Tryon and Van Steen making a fine partnership. They maintain a finely controlled tempo with this pianist bringing her beautifully pure, limpid touch to the later stages where the cor anglais joins.

Neither Valerie Tryon or Jac van Steen and the orchestra hold back in the Presto, bringing a humour that can often be lacking. There are some wonderful quieter, tense moments as both build the music up, Tryon bringing some very fine, free and fresh moments. The orchestra add some fine instrumental contributions before the sudden coda.

In a heavily laden catalogue of the Ravel Concerto in G this performance brings much to delight and with the Debussy and Fauré makes for an enticing new release. 

These artists are well recorded at the Henry Wood Hall, London, UK with the piano nicely balanced against the orchestra. There are informative booklet notes.

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