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Funereal tribute to French piano music

The Germany-born Menahem Pressler is the "grand old man" of the piano. He was a founding member of the world-renowned Beaux Arts Trio in 1953 and helmed it till 2008.

He still pursues an active solo performing and teaching career at the age of 94. This solo album of French piano music, recorded last year, unfortunately does his legacy scant justice.

Almost every item is played at a funereal and lugubrious tempo.

Although his touch and pedalling are often exquisite, Claude Debussy's First Arabesque, Reverie and the titular Clair De Lune (from Suite Bergamasque) are so dragged out that one's patience is tested.

The same stolidity applies to the selection of five Preludes. In Danseuses De Delphes, the sonorous chords sound strangely detached. Only in the slower-than-slow waltz La Plus Que Lente does his expansive pacing makes perfect sense.

The recital is completed by a Gabriel Faure Barcarolle, easily the album's best track, and two pieces by Maurice Ravel.

Chang Tou Liang



    Menahem Pressler, piano

    Deutsche Grammophon 479 8756

    Rating: 3/5

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2018, with the headline 'Funereal tribute to French piano music'. Print Edition | Subscribe