Jean-Philippe Sylvestre, piano; Orchestre Métropolitain; Alain Trudel, conductor
ATMA Classique ACD22763, 54 min 32 s.
Quebec child prodigy André Mathieu is paired with Russian giant of the piano repertoire Rachmaninov in this live recording made during the 2017 Festival Classica. There have always been comparisons between the two composers, but with the scattering of blues harmonies amid the late-Romantic language in the Concerto de Québec, you can hear the relationship between Mathieu and Gershwin as well.
Mathieu had a great amount of raw talent, but was unable to refine his style; this much is made clear by the juxtaposition on this record. The Third Piano Concerto was arranged for the 1947 feature film La Forteresse, and was apparently not to Mathieu’s liking; but it is how the Concerto de Québec has been passed down to us. It will be interesting to see how it differs from the version Alain Lefèvre discovered and will release later this year (see feature article).
It’s difficult when a piece – or in this case, the entire piano output of a composer – becomes associated with a single interpreter. Lefèvre was the one to revive the Concerto de Québec in 2003 with Analekta. Sylvestre contrasts his interpretation by taking the slow tempi (especially the second movement) a bit faster. It’s not incorrect, but it can be a bit jarring if you’re used to Lefèvre’s version. The challenge in the coming years for those who wish to perform Mathieu will be finding the composer’s voice within all of the rehabilitative work accomplished by Lefèvre.
This record is proof that Sylvestre is a star among us, giving lush, buoyant renditions of both works – refreshing since many pianists get bogged down in the slow movements. Alain Trudel steers the Orchestre Métropolitain through all the twists and turns of both concerti. A few times we drift a little off course in the transitions and overall the sound quality could have been better, especially in the higher strings; but all in all it’s not bad for a live recording.