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24.9.08

Francesco Schlimé in a Landscape

This review is an Ionarts exclusive.

Francesco Tristano Schlimé:
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Ravel / Prokofiev


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Bach Concertos


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Berio [IMPORT]


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Frescobaldi [IMPORT]
Francesco Tristano Schlimé, a 20-something pianist born in Luxembourg and lately a student at Juilliard, gave a whopper of a recital on Monday night at La Maison Française. It was the opposing panel in a diptych of young French pianists interested in contemporary music, following last week's experimental concert by Benoît Delbecq. Whereas Delbecq played jazz compositions inspired in part by the music of John Cage, Schlimé played a more traditional classical recital program, including music by John Cage. Like Delbecq, Schlimé played some of his own compositions, beginning with Hello, which featured swinging, jazz-influenced rhythms, as well as non-traditional effects, like stopped and scratched strings and overtone strikes. Here and in his piano arrangement of Technology, a 1995 bass-heavy techno piece by Carl Craig given a treatment that recalled Debussy's La cathédrale engloutie, Schlimé's compositional style was repetitive, if with appealing drive, and short on ideas able to sustain interest for long.

Another French pianist, Alexandre Tharaud, has said that the pioneering work of Baroque specialists makes it "essential for a pianist to immerse himself in Baroque music." Schlimé has followed the same path, releasing recordings of Bach and Frescobaldi. His approach to Bach's first keyboard partita (B-flat, BWV 825) showed that influence, played without the pedals and with a dancelike verve. While he skipped the repeats in many of the movements, in the repeats he did observe, as in the sarabande, he made pleasing alterations, like during that long trill of the B section. The sarabande kept a sense of propulsion, rather than being allowed to droop, and the gigue had a buzzing whirr, wild to the point of a few slips in the many hand crossings. The virtuosity of the Bach was bookended by two dreamy pieces by John Cage. Before it there was a later Etude Australe (Book 1, no. 4), a pointillistic watercolor of odd, fleeting textures. After it came the program's major discovery, the 1948 Debussyesque In a Landscape, a work that few would ever guess was composed by Cage. Schlimé played it as a sotto voce Zen murmur, punctuated by occasional bell tones and mantra-like repetitions of an unusual scale (the whole piece was played with the pedal depressed).

Choosing to end with a booming virtuosic display, Schlimé closed with a set by Igor Stravinsky. The suave Tango, reviewed recently in a version for two pianos, allowed Schlimé further to display his command of the soft dynamic range. He then launched into a barn-storming reading of Stravinsky's Trois mouvements de Petrouchka, which ranged from a manic "Danse russe" to a dreamy second movement, and back again. Schlimé not only showcased his extreme, if not flawless technical control but never seemed to try to exceed the range of colors and dynamics of the embassy's Bösendorfer. He not only got all, or most, of the notes: he shaped the lines and voiced the sonorities to create an orchestral range of sound, from hollow and percussive to rich and warm. It was quite an achievement.

La Maison Française, which regularly hosts some of the most attractive and unusual concerts in the city, next offers a recital by Baroque violinist Patrick Bismuth and his ensemble La Tempesta (October 9, 7:30 pm). The program of Baroque music is centered on the work of Jean-Marie Leclair.

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