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Cédric Tiberghien

Cédric Tiberghien:
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Brahms, Hungarian Dances

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Bach Partitas 2-4

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Brahms, Piano Concerto No. 1

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Chopin/Brahms, Ballades
On the basis of some of Cédric Tiberghien's recent recordings, of the first Brahms piano concerto and some Bach partitas, we had the 30-something French pianist pegged as a velvety colorist. That impression more or less held true in his recital on Saturday afternoon at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, which opened the fall season for Washington Performing Arts Society. His programming tendencies indicate a completist's mind, tending toward sets and single composers, much appreciated when shelving CDs and pleasingly thorough, if less essential, in the concert hall.

His interpretation of all four of Chopin's ballades, which he has recorded in an interlocking program with the Brahms ballades, focused on contrasts, as in the reticent and introspective main theme of the G minor, which was followed by manic fast passages that whirled out of control, and not always in a good way. He tended to stretch the tempo to the point that it was bent out of shape and lost cohesion over the course of an entire work. Add a hazy, even soporific reliance on the sustaining and soft pedals, and the effect was a little out of touch, more gossamer gauze than technical audacity. The playing never approached the force and daring of Marc-André Hamelin's recent recording, but it had improved by the fourth ballade, with a striking rendition of the blazing final pages.

Other Reviews:

Joe Banno, Tiberghien Brings a Deft Touch to Chopin (Washington Post, September 28)
Tiberghien's strengths, for gently etched, coloristic effects, came to the fore in the all-French second half, beginning with a nuanced, somewhat subdued performance of Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit. His Ondine seemed a little on the slow side, allowing Tiberghien to emphasize the rippling water effect of the right-hand figure, as was Le gibet, more atmospheric than horror-struck, with the ostinato bell figure clanging louder at times and then almost imperceptibly. The high point was the eccentric, unpredictable reading of Scarbo, jumpy and prone to devilish outbursts, and once again most technically assured at the work's conclusion. It lacked the technical force of Yevgeny Sudbin's recent performance, but also his somewhat careless brashness, and the broad dynamic range of voicing heard from Anna Vinnitskaya recently on disc.

Three Debussy selections proved much the same, with a pleasingly transparent texture that allowed inner lines to shimmer, relishing the playful guitar-like sounds of Masques, the lyrical lines and jazzy harmonies of D'un cahier d'esquisses, the decorous elegance of L'isle joyeuse. This was Debussy of sometimes nearly unbearable délicatesse, perhaps even a bit fussy. Announcing his single encore as another Debussy work with "some more bells," Tiberghien gave an equally idiosyncratic (some strange tempo shifts) performance of the prelude La cathédrale engloutie.

The next recital in the WPAS classical series will feature Murray Perahia (October 17, 4 pm) playing Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, and Chopin in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.

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