A tribute to the varied career of pianist Sylvia Carbonel

Art by Sylvia Carbonel. Solo piano and chamber music. Works by Modeste Moussorgsky (1839-1881), Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894), Franz Liszt (1811-1886), Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) ), Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), Robert Schumann (1810-1856) and fifteen other composers. Sylvie Carbonel, piano; New Philharmonic Orchestra of Radio France, conducted by Mark Starr. 1963-2008. Instructions in French, English and German. 571'. Box set of ten Skarbo/INA DSK12223 CDs.

You should not look for the name of the French pianist Sylvie Carbonel among those chosen by the musicologist Alain Pâris for his New Dictionary of Interpreters published in 2015 (Laffont/Bouquins): it does not appear there. Relatively publicized, perhaps due to the scant official discography (several albums for Adda, Pavane, Accord, Quantum or Skarbo), and despite the fact that she participated in radio and television shows, welcomed by Eve Ruggieri or Frédéric Mitterrand, Sylvie Carbonel, whose place date of birth is not revealed in this box, he has a career of several decades behind him.

While studying at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris (where she later taught), she became a student of Pierre Sancan, who studied piano with Yves Nat, and was a laureate of the Messiaen Prize and the Enesco Competition in Bucharest. In 1972, she received a scholarship that enabled her to go to the United States, where she stayed for seven years and graduated from the Juilliard School, then Bloomington University, where her professor was György Sebök; she is also a student of Radu Lupu. She started her career as a soloist, in chamber music or with an orchestra, especially under the leadership of conductors such as Lorin Maazel, Ernest Bour, Sergiu Comissiona, Michel Plasson or Serge Baudo. She will perform in the hospitable country that has long been the USA, in Latin America and in many European countries, especially in France, where she is present at many festivals. In the first decade of our century, she directed, for about fifteen years, Moments musicales de Chalosse, in the Landes department, where she opened the festival in 2016. This full career, which is still ongoing, deserved a special tribute. This is the subject of this frame, a representative of eclectic art; the choice of content was made by Sylvie Carbonel herself within her too short official discography, as well as in the INA archive, with clips from shows or concerts broadcast on several French channels. The date of each service is listed at the end of the presentation booklet.

Ten discs, therefore, to illuminate the most diverse journey, which goes from Bach to Schoenberg and Messiaen. The first two are reissues of official engravings. In 1990, Sylvie Carbonel recorded the world premiere of Mussorgsky's piano music for the Adda label. The complete work was well received by American critics, the New York Times who called the pianist a diabolically intelligent artist, and by French magazines, Etienne Moreau who insisted, in the October 1991 Diapason (not November as stated) , on an interpretation of Seventeen pieces about childhood memories that she describes in detail with finesse or about the brazen pianistic devices she uses in La Capricieuse or La Couturière. Sylvie Carbonel shows here, as we will see elsewhere, that she is at ease with the narration of small parts, each time creating a subtly original universe. On the other hand, the Pictures from the exhibition that logically follow these short pages, are less convincing to the same critic, who evoke a scrupulousness that goes hand in hand with a down-to-earth and inflexible style. We agree with him about this unenthusiastic version, which cannot be matched by other great interpreters of the Tableaux. Especially since the sound of the piano is dull and lacks spark.

On the other hand, the second official album is great. This engraving, published by Quantum in 1997, brings together Ten picturesque pieces by Chabriere, of which Sylvie Carbonel renders the Tourbillon, the Country Dance or the Scherzo-Valse with melodic generosity, an effective sense of color and the finesse of every moment, on the rare Music Notebook of Jacques Desbrière, now almost a hundred years old (he was born in 1925), whose eleven pieces she elegantly distills with impressionistic flavors. Here, from start to finish, the performer's technique perfectly serves his clean and bright playing.

The other eight discs in the box set come, as noted above, from INA's archives and span almost forty years. To browse them, you can follow the guide of the author of the note, musicologist Bruno Moysan, an expert on Liszt and Chopin. He points out the main directions of the proposed recordings: German music to begin with, with a little penetration into Bach, the essential romantics of Schumann and Brahms, and a detour through the modern times of Schoenberg and his Three Pieces Op. 11. Next comes the “classical block” consisting of Mozart and Beethoven, to which we add Weber. Chopin and Liszt form a third approach. A French panorama completes the project before the final Grieg/Prokofiev program. These lines of force are defined logically and show the limitless variety of Sylvia Carbonel's repertoire.

First let's focus on Sylvie Carbonel's solo. Liszt occupies the third disc of the box set with the Sonata in B minor (Radio France, 1976), with a beautiful height of the view, then with Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude and Funérailles (Radio France, 1980), two pages from the Harmony of Poetics and Religion , which are inspired to reveal themselves under his fingers. Added to this is the only testimony with the orchestra in the box set: Totentanz, who played with the Radio France NOP during the concert on February 16, 1979, conducted by the American Mark Starr (°1941), a little-known conductor, orchestrator and director publishing house, founded in Los Altos, California, husband of French flautist Isabelle Chapuis. This flashy version, recorded in a rather confusing way, is not to be marked with a white stone. On the other hand, Chopin's Ballad no. 4 (Radio France 1976), well performed in its epic and dramatic poetry, and lively excerpts (1963) from his Sonata no. 2 makes it regrettable that the solo piano pages of Poles are so little represented.

Sylvie Carbonel finds herself very comfortable, as we have said, in isolated pages, whether on a large scale like Beethoven's “Waldstein” Sonata (RTF, 1964) or Schumann's Humoresque (Radio France, 1982), where virtuosity, grandeur and the romantic soul are not left out, as in pieces of shorter duration. This is evidenced by the collection consolidated on CD no. 9: Alkan's boldness is next to Bizet (elegiac excerpts from the Rhine songs), Debussy (a colorful joyous island), Messiaen (the 11th piece from Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant Jesus, which Sylvie Carbonel played at the age of fifteen before the master) , and excerpts from the little-known Eaux-Fortes (1963) by Georges Hugon (1904-1980), between Debussy and the Vienna School, and from Alain Louvier's Études pour aggressors (°1945) with their original sounds dating from 1964. Elsewhere we still find the dynamic El Pelele by Granados and the Tri klavierstücke by Schoenberg, where, on the way to atonality, the memory of romanticism appears.

Sylvie Carbonel's chamber music activity, another aspect of her career, is well documented. Note the warm Sonata for Flute and Piano Op. 39 Weber with Alain Marion and Trio no. 5 for violin, cello and piano by Mozart, with Nina Bodnar and Hervé Derrien, who are also present in Trio Op. 8 by Brahms. All this is well constructed and worthy of interest. From Brahms we once again appreciate the Trio op. 114: Michel Portal's clarinet and Roland Pidoux's cello bring their share of sumptuous mystery to the very attentive piano. Referring again to the cello of Hervé Derrien, Sylvie Carbonel emphasizes the elegant lyricism of the Sonata Op. 36 by Grieg, as well as the zest and ardor of the Sonata op. 119 by Prokofiev.

All these testimonies, as a soloist or in chamber music with partners who remember French excellence, come from shows from the 1960s to the 1980s. Overall, the radio recordings vary in quality, but these archives represent a global interest that justifies their inclusion in the tribute. From listening to this discographic adventure, we take away the conviction that we have become better acquainted with a pianist of solid profession, alert curiosity and eclectic repertoire, whose main qualities are (commitment, virtuosity, absence of narcissism, exploration of sounds adapted to every climate). ) were highlighted by a choice made by Sylvie Carbonel herself. A box set that is not only useful, but also necessary, to say goodbye to the artist and his long career.

Overall rating: 8

Jean Lacroix

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