It has become a tiresome cliché to describe anything these days as “a journey”, but French pianist Lise de la Salle has a point then she uses the analogy for her ninth recording with the Naïve label. “It’s a journey that explores the different ways in which dance takes possession of the body,” she explains in an interview in the liner notes.
The double disc set covers two continents and the century 1850-1950. Disc one starts in North America with its swing, rags, blues and jazz and the music of George Gershwin, Art Tatum and Fats Waller – all a little undercooked and bland for this listener’s ear. She hits her straps when she travels south to Argentina for Piazzolla’s Libertango and the gauchos and sad women of Ginastera’s Danzes Argentinas.
Disc two takes us to Europe via Spain, and the rather obvious choice of Manuel de Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance from El Amor Brujo, until she lands on home soil with a tidy reading of Ravel’s Valses Nobles et Séntimentales. While disc one lacks playfulness and spontaneity, de la Salle finds them both in Saint-Saëns’ Étude en forme de Valse and she’s equally impressive in Bartók’s Six Romanian Folk Dances.
Known for her strengths in the Russian repertoire, she rounds off the trip with assured performances of a Scriabin waltz, a Stravinsky tango and a Rachmaninov polka.
It is all pleasant enough, but this invitation to the dance is a little too polite and refined for my tastes.
Composers: Gershwin, Piazzolla, Bartók, Stravinsky et al.
Works: Various piano works
Performer: Lise de la Salle
Label: Naïve V5468