BARTÓK Racines (Florent Boffard)
Florent Boffard’s credentials as an exponent of modern music are impeccable and well known, as are his recordings. It may be worth noting here, however, that though he was on the faculties of the Lyon and Stuttgart Conservatories, since 2016 he has been on the faculty of the Paris Conservatoire.
His welcome new Bartók disc for Mirare typifies his extraordinarily refined and cultivated pianism, as penetrating in Chopin as it is in Boulez or Berio. The Fourteen Bagatelles, which Bartók himself considered a sort of gateway to his mature work, are given a performance which is a marvel of subtlety, hypersensitivity to every indication in the score and acutely vivid imagination. The tonal palette is infinitely calibrated, the rhythmical acumen a wonder of lithe flexibility. Boffard traces a seamless line, from the abstract directional graph of No 1 through the slightly idiotic Waltz of No 14, which creates a sense of rare cohesion throughout the set, with humour always winking from the wings. Offhand, I cannot think of a finer performance.
The two big Romanian Dances fairly burst with vitality, even if they are faster than they could be conceivably danced, even by dervishes on amphetamines. As for the two big suites, Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs and Out of Doors, I simply can’t decide which I like best, even after repeated listening: the pliant rhythms, finely wrought parlando rubato and delicate voicing of astonishingly harmonically complex chords combine to create luminously captivating textures. This full-voiced, deeply breathing, humanly dimensional Bartók is the one I’ve been waiting for. Now, let’s have more!