Sophie Agnel


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So soft -- what Sophie Agnel does is so soft you will probably need a couple of listens before getting used to it. Solo is her first solo piano recording and this format remains the best to hear all the details of her prepared piano playing. The more the listener progresses from one track to the next, the more she abandons the keyboard to concentrate on the bowels of the beast, placing objects on the strings, playing the strings, even the wood structure. Her approach, which consists of conceiving all parts of the piano as an instrument, is not new. Since John Cage's prepared piano pieces of the 1940s, many pianists have explored this path. More recently Denman Maroney has developed techniques that surely inspired Agnel. Yet, his playing is a lot more talkative, while Agnel belongs to the school of French avant-garde pianists, people like Sylvie Courvoisier and Jacques Demierre. Solo is not an austere record, but it requires your undivided attention. Pieces like "Rouge" or especially "Monique à la Plage" are so sparse and fragile, the smallest distraction can ruin the moment -- but when listened to under excellent conditions, they can have a strength close to the transcendental. Some pieces are more conventional and eventful. Of those, "Et à la Fin Il Arrive Avec Son Vélo" ("And in the End He Appears on His Bicycle") stands out as beautifully lyrical, feminine, and yet highly modern and personal. Recommended.

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