Monique de la Bruchollerie = BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 31 in A-flat Major, Op. 110; SCHUMANN: Carnaval, Op. 9; LISZT: Funerailles; CHOPIN: Nocturne in E Major, Op. 62, No. 2; Berceuse in D-flat Major, Op. 57; SOLER: Sonata ancienne; GALLES: Sonata ancienne; RODRIGUEZ: Sonata ancienne – Monique de la Brucholerie, piano – MeloClassic MC 1005, 75:09 (5/2/14) [www.meloclassic.com] ****:
Until a fateful automobile accident in Romania 1966 impaired her performing abilities, Monique de la Bruchollerie (1915-1972) occupied a powerful position in the history of French piano music. A pupil of Isidor Philipp, she went on to study with Alfred Cortot, Emil von Sauer, and Raoul von Koczalski. Her power at the keyboard and range of repertory made her the Gallic equal of titan Greek virtuoso Gina Bachauer. At least twice in her concert career, Bruchollerie performed three concertos in one evening under Charles Munch. She toured as a soloist with Sergiu Celibidache in South America. Among her commercial recordings, those for Vox Records still command respect in the concertos of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, and Brahms.
The live Chartres recital revived by MeloClassic (5 September 1959) for Radiodiffusion-Television Francaise recreates two works – the Schumann and the Beethoven – that Brucholllerie performed at age 13 when she won the Premier Prix at the Paris Conservatory. The opening Moderato cantabile molto espressivo in Op. 110 reveals a plastic, fluent vocal line, limber and strong in trill and bass chords. Urgency and intimacy collaborate to create a poignant realization of Beethoven’s directive, con amabilita. The liquid ideas in E-flat Major communicate a studied resonance. The F Major Scherzo sounds a bit more Teutonic than its wonted self, but Bruchollerie can make the figures dance, too. The D-flat trio assumes a perverse humor. The grand Adagio movement begins with a staid recitative from Bruchollerie that segues to a song of lamentation (klagendlied) over throbbing eighth notes. Despite the solemnity and depth of the three-voice Fuga, Bruchollerie maintains a transparent texture, though her bass sonorities could be attributed to Bach-Busoni. From the booming organ sonority Bruchollerie moves to a diaphanous cloud of propelled color, made more intellectually dazzling since Beethoven turns his fugue subject upside-down. A few finger slips do not spoil the explosive effect of her coda, to which the audience responds warmly.
Bruchollerie then proffers three miniatures – sonatas anciennes – by Soler, Galles, and Rodriguez. The Soler sparkles like the best Scarlatti. Bruchollerie can diminuendo and accelerando at once with subtle grace. The Galles plays like an ungainly gavotte with a taste for delayed cadences and pleasant arpeggios. The Rodriguez possesses, much in the manner of Soler, a decided Iberian rhythmic character, rife with music-box trills. In fact, this virtuosic piece has often been attributed to Soler.
The Liszt Funerailles from his Poetic and Religious Harmonies provides Bruchollerie a vehicle for ardent heroics. Hers is a somber, stentorian reading, certainly befitting the 1849 events that inspired the work, particularly the execution of Count Lajos Batthyeany by the Austrian government. In the midst of the percussive, later galloping, defiance, we find a tragic lyricism that endures in the great Liszt processionals in which real events and mythic stature merge seamlessly.
The two Chopin works balance poetic temperament with an idiosyncratic sense of Classical form. The last of Chopin’s official canon of nocturnes combines parlando and bel canto impulses with a ravishing fioritura. Typiucally, the heavily syncopated element has its adumbration early. Bruchollerie drives the piece hard, but she knows when to relent to allow its grand gestures to have their head. Rich textural movement plays against an almost static chordal progression. The Berceuse dazzles as a study in touch and color over a repetitive ostinato that Handel would have envied. Again, the combination of fluidity and liquid color anticipates the Debussy keyboard ethos. Brochollerie conducts the entire exercise in silken watercolors.
For her finale extraordinaire, Bruchollerie delivers the eternal, mercurial Carnaval of Robert Schumann. She employs all of her potent gifts for percussion, metric shifts, and uncanny speed – tempered or aggravated by a willful rubato – to parade for us Schumann’s cast of characters. Arlequin certainly receives a few accented knocks on the head. A suave Valse noble compelled me to turn up the volume for Bruchollerie’s piano, which sounds a mite distant. So many of the individual personae receive a nervous, stinging punch from Bruchollerie, that they become refreshed. She includes the staid but ripe monument Sphinxes. She obviously loves her Chopin. With Papillons, Bruchollerie resumes her frenetic chariot race that must eventually pass through Paganini’s wizardly antics and culminate in the Marche des Davidsbuendler contre les Philistins. Formidable! in any language.