French pianist Bertrand Chamayou performs during the 27th annual Victoires de la musique classique (Classical music award) ceremony at the lArsenal de Metz, in Metz, northeastern France on February 21, 2020. (Photo by Christoph DE BARRY / AFP)
Artillery Row Lebrecht's Album of the Week

Good Night! (Erato)

French pianist Bertrand Chamayou’s compilation of lullabies shows a degree of taste and independence unusual in a young soloist still at the start of his journey

★★★

Musical lullabies can quickly outlast their welcome. Everybody’s had the Brahms Wiegenlied sung to them at some point in infancy and many have experienced the sleepytime duet in Hansel and Gretel: the one they sing just before the witch becomes their nightmare. But one hearing is usually all I can bear of these bonbons.

It takes guts for a French pianist to produce a lullaby compilation without obligatory blobs of Debussy.

The beauty of this compilation by the French pianist Bertrand Chamayou is that it leads the ear down unexpected paths – some overgrown like Janacek’s crystalline opener, others unexpected, neglected or altogether unknown. Two etudes by Sergei Liapunov are drops of perfect chamomile. A dollop of Villa-Lobos takes us into a Brazilian jungle much thicker and more Freudian than Janacek’s urban alleyway. 

There’s a Berceuse by the German modernist Helmut Lachenmann that is so full of plinks and plonks it would put you to sleep in a concert, let alone your own bed. And the closing prelude by Charles-Valentin Alkan titled “I was asleep but my heart was awake” is so compelling I can’t understand why it’s hardly used as an encore.

It takes guts for a French pianist to produce a lullaby compilation without obligatory blobs of Debussy. It also shows a degree of taste and independence unusual in a young soloist still at the start of his journey. Chamayou is one to watch out for in the New Year, once the recital circuit reopens.

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