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Thibaudet: mastery, mostly

The French pianist proves revelatory. But about the Chopin ....

May 23, 2003|Daniel Cariaga | Times Staff Writer

At 41, Jean-Yves Thibaudet may be the finest exponent of French pianism since the heydays of Aldo Ciccolini and Jean-Marie Darre. He demonstrated why at his revelatory recital for the Philharmonic Society of Orange County Wednesday night in Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa.

The Lyon-born pianist's many-faceted and ear-opening second half offered unhackneyed works by Debussy, Satie and Messiaen, played with a breathtaking mastery and unerring accuracy. Three of Debussy's daunting 12 Etudes began this startling technical exhibition with their musical values predominating, the pianist's abundant mechanical resources nonetheless on display.

Equally challenging and even more subtle, three pieces by Satie added to our ken of Thibaudet's emotional range. Then the coup de grace: No. 20 of Messiaen's epochal "Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant Jesus," in which the pianist used his entire range of dynamics, color and tone-manipulation toward evoking the composer's profound spiritual vision. The rapt audience's approval was vociferous.

Unfortunately, Thibaudet's opening Chopin group was prosaic: polished, yes, and sleek, but also glib. It had good moments: a thoughtful Second Prelude, a rippling Third, a bracing reading of Prelude No. 24. Two Etudes and two waltzes came off handsomely, but superficially. And the "Raindrop" Prelude was pure plodding, with little of its genuine poetry.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday May 28, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
Composer's name -- A review of the Jean-Yves Thibaudet recital in Orange County in Friday's Calendar misspelled the name of composer Jeanne-Marie Darre as Jean-Marie Darre.

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