French Pianist Bares His Poetic Soul
In his Toronto debut at Koerner Hall, French pianist Cédric Tiberghien proved that the greatest storytellers do not shout, but speak softly.
There are few pianists in the world who can play as softly yet clearly as he did in a program that mixed French and Austrian repertoire for the Toronto Summer Music Festival.
The anchor pieces were Piano Sonatas by Alban Berg and Franz Schubert (the great C minor, D958). But the works that enthralled so much that there was dead silence while Tiberghien played were by French impressionist Claude Debussy.
Somehow the French pieces, all abstract exercises in tone painting, could accommodate the full, spectacular breadth of this 38-year-old artist’s prodigious technique as well as his poetic soul.
It is truly rare to find a pianist who can juggle three even four separate lines of music at the same time, giving each a slightly different emphasis and colour.
It made the four pieces by Debussy (two from the official program, two as encores) shimmer, glow and undulate with uncommon sensuousness.
But this approach also did wonders for the music of Schubert, written three-quarters of a century earlier. There is hardly ever a moment in this composer’s output where there isn’t a voice singing somewhere in the score — and Tiberghien obliged, being both exemplary singer and sensitive accompanist rolled into one dazzling set of 10 fingers.
He even did this for the Berg Sonata, a prickly early 20th century work usually dispatched with more gusto than finesse by pianists brave enough to tackle it. We heard the piece interpreted with the same sensitivity as a set of six Moments Musicaux by Schubert — and the music loved the pianist back.
Rounding out his artist’s palette of wonders, Tiberghien also made time speed up or stand still, depending on the effect he was looking for.