Young piano virtuosos used to make their recording debuts with flashy discs of Chopin's etudes or Liszt's rhapsodies. More recently, they've begun to make their debuts with thoughtful discs of Schumann's fantasias or Brahms' variations. But with this 2008 Naïve disc, young French virtuoso Bertrand Chamayou makes his debut with -- surprise! -- an all-Mendelssohn program. This change is, to say the least, courageous. Not only is the German composer's piano music still relatively rarely represented on disc, but it is considered by critics to be less significant than the piano music of his contemporaries.
And yet, as Chamayou conclusively demonstrates, this is first-class music, indeed, first-class virtuoso music. Several of the German master's best-known piano works are here, including the Rondo capriccioso and the Variations sérieuses, along with five of his Lieder Ohne Worte, two of his songs transcribed by Liszt, his Scherzo from the Midsummer Night's Dream incidental music arranged by Rachmaninov, and five other works.
Chamayou treats all of them with an impressive blend of respect, musicality, and virtuosity. The French pianist has the light touch, the strong attack, and the agile dexterity the music needs, plus the ardent poetry and sparkling brilliance it wants. Try just his Midsummer Night's Dream Scherzo, and if its combination of energy, wit, and affection fail to move you, perhaps this isn't the disc for you. But if it does, this disc will likely thrill and charm you. Naïve's sound is not perhaps as close as it might be, but it is still clear and direct.