Pierre-Arnaud Dablemont plays Beethoven and Bach [CDs]

Piano Sonata No. 13 in E flat major “Quasi una fantasia” Op. 27, No. 1. Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor “Quasi una fantasia” (Moonlight) Op. 27, No. 2. Piano Sonata No. 15 in D major “Pastoral” Op. 28.  Pierre-Arnaud Dablemont, piano. Resonus Classics [62:18].

Pierre-Arnaud Dablemont’s CD of Beethoven Sonatas on Resonus Classics brings a fresh approach and a superb recording to these often recorded works. The Parisian born and Brussels based French pianist has a fluent technique and produces a lovely tone, but it’s his musicality that wins here.

For the first in his Beethoven series, Dablemont has chosen three sonatas from Beethoven’s middle period, and what gems they are. Sonatas 13, 14 (Moonlight) and 15 (Pastoral) offer both the power and sensitivity that flows through all of Beethoven’s works.

Dablemont’s interpretations feature faster tempos than my favourite performances in these works, those by Freddy Kempf, Gilels and Schnabel, but they work. And Dablemont has both the technique and musicality to bring them off. Playing his version of the famous slow movement from the Moonlight directly after Freddy Kempf’s proved a surprise. Kempf is so slow (but is wonderful) and Dablemont’s positively races in comparison. Yet, Dablemont is closer to Beethoven’s marking of alla breve than Kempf. Your choice.

And, that’s our problem with so many amazing Beethoven Sonatas on record. Choice. A serious collector will have many full sets and lots of individual recordings. I’ve recently enjoyed Angela Hewitt’s Hyperion series, the Peter Takacs set and Canadian great, Robert Silverman’s fantastic set on Orpheum Masters. Add young Dablemont’s CD to my favourites list.  

Toccata BWV 914, Partita BWV 825, Partita BWV 830. Pierre-Arnaud Dablemont, piano. ZeD Classics ZED15001 [56:07].

It's nice to get first dibs on French pianist Pierre-Arnaud Dablemont’s newest albums. This latest CD of Bach Toccatas and Partitas is his third, coming after his auspicious debut of Ravel and Janacek and his outrageously good second release of Beethoven Sonatas. That CD was one our best from last year and this Bach makes 2015 but too late for our ‘Best of 2015’. If heard earlier, it surely would have made my list. So, our first star recording of 2016.

Dablemont goes from strength to strength. The technique is there (and getting better) but it’s his touch and musicality that impresses me. Phrases are so beautifully negotiated and his touch can create real magic. The piano sound becomes tactile within your system.

The Toccata in E minor is an exquisite masterpiece played to near perfection and the two Partitas (originally for harpsichord) are from the set of Six Partitas that have become a cornerstone of Bach’s keyboard literature. They, too, are played superbly. The music unfolds so naturally — nothing seems strained, nothing forced. The best of Bach.

By comparison, new Sony artist Igor Levit, who is getting appropriately rave press, sounds equally fine in his complete set of Partitas. The recording is very good, but the ambiance of Dablemont’s recording draws the listener in and is even more detailed.

If you already own Levit’s CD, you’re set. If not, get the Dablemont recording. And press him to record the balance of the set. He’s very well placed on social media.