Lise de la Salle

Chopin: Ballades; Piano Concerto No. 2

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France's Naïve label has heavily promoted the career of the young pianist Lise de la Salle, who was 22 when this recording was made. Her fashion-spread good looks fit with Naïve's design concepts, and she has the ability to deliver the spontaneous, unorthodox performances the label favors. How does she fare in a field extremely crowded with Chopin recitals? Her performances certainly aren't derivative of anyone else, and this live recording from the Semperoper in Dresden (you get a one-minute track of just applause at the end) has a good deal of attention-getting flair. The standout feature of de la Salle's performance, in the four ballades at least, is her orientation toward slow tempos, inventively deployed. The ballades are somewhere between moderately slow and much slower than normal, but de la Salle is not trying to create a deliberate mood. Instead the operative adjective is "dreamy." She applies a good deal of rubato in the quieter passages, and against this backdrop the big tunes emerge as bright colors flitting across the landscape -- as dreams of the sun, perhaps -- rather than as lyrical anchors of the music. De la Salle does not lack power, but she applies it sparingly and explosively. It's undeniably an odd treatment of the ballades, but it's quite absorbing, and hearers' reactions may well be as idiosyncratic as the readings. The Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21, is more conventional and benefits from sensitive accompaniment from the Staatskapelle Dresden under Fabio Luisi. Naïve's live production values are very high.

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