Suite for 2 Pianos Op.5 Fantasie-tableaux
Reinecke (arr. David Cutler)
Piazzola (arr. Kari Vehmanen and Kyoko Yamamoto)
History of Tango: Café 1930, Night Club 1960
Contemplations 1 & 2, Tableux 1-5, Impreso
Isabelle Courret Harp
Cyprien Katsaris Piano
This is one of those discs that really should not work but most emphatically does. It would be easy for the piano to drown out the harp constantly but the blend is well handled by the engineer in Paris.
It would be easy too for the percussive piano to grate when compared to the subtlety of the harp but Gourret and Katsaris partner each other so cleverly that often the ear is tricked into thinking it’s listening to the other instrument. They merge and demerge as the character of the music dictates.
Carl Reinecke’s concerto works particularly well in their hands, the conversation flowing from harp to piano more effectively than it actually does in the orchestral original (where the orchestration is, frankly, a touch overbearing). The two pieces by Astor Piazzola were originally for flute and guitar but are much richer in this arrangement – in fact two arrangements stitched together – and are turned into delicious mood pieces; much more Paris than Buenos Aires.
The whole thing feels like an idea dreamed up over a long Parisian lunch, lubricated with a couple of aperitifs and bottle of good rosé and perhaps it was. Katsaris and Gourret in the cover pictures look as if that is the projet du jour. However they credit the notion to the 34 year-old French composer Régis Chesneau whose three works here were written for them in 2015 and ’16. The Tableaux were written specially for this recording.
This is the first music by Chesneau I have heard. Contemplations is a little too influenced by the Michael Nyman school of aimless but insistent repetition for my liking. The same thing infects Tableaux but there are enough interruptions to the flow to make the pieces more interesting, though only just. This is an avenue of contemporary music that should have run its course in Oldfield’s Tubular Bells 50 years ago and need not have been adopted by another generation. Having said that the third and fourth in the sequence, and the simple Debussy-like textures of Impreso are beguiling in a filmic way and suggest that Chesneau is capable of producing work of greater substance.
That mild disagreement can be put aside, though, and does not have to detract from the considerable attractiveness of this programme or the fine playing of the performers. There is so much that is enjoyable, even with repeated listening.