Jean-Claude Henriot (pn)
DUX 835 (SACD: 63:16)
Some recordings strike you as great, some as bad in one way or another, but to be honest, the great majority are mediocre. This is a perfect case in point. Pianist Henriot, who I’d never heard before, was 62 when he recorded this album in 2011. His influences are listed as Artur Schnabel, Samson François, Arturo Benedetti Michaelangeli, and Radu Lupu, but to me he really sounds like none of them. He has a light touch that would be aptly suited to Debussy but not at all to Beethoven. He plays all the notes, and in fact scrupulously observes all the dynamic and phrase markings, but somehow or other a performance never really happens. It’s rather like watching an excellent dancer such as Erik Bruhn: He does everything right, and while you’re watching him you are pleased by the rightness of his technical skills, but there’s no passion, no drive to his dancing. I felt much the same of Henriot, at least in this work, and in fact there are moments where he introduces rubato that simply does not fit into the phrase, for instance the variation that sounds like the opening of Leporello’s lines in
Such touches of rubato, in variations like these, interrupt the musical flow and, really, make very little sense.
Mind you, there are indeed a few nice moments, such as variations 29 and 30, where the delicate tracery of the music falls very well under his fingers, but he never once grabs your attention, never once sounds like—well, like Beethoven, and that’s the problem. I’m not sure what point there is to presenting a solo piano disc in SACD sound, but if that is a selling point for you, go for it. The rest of us may safely stick to the phenomenal recording by Vladimir Ashkenazy on Decca.
Lynn René Bayley