MUSSORGSKY Picture from and Exhibition RAVEL Gaspard de la nuit
After numerous solo recordings (his first was a live recital in the Concertgebouw aged 14) and a more recent disc of Mendelssohn cello sonatas with Mischa Maisky (DG, A/02), the Argentine Venezuelan-born virtuoso presents a stunning calling-card on EMI – not his first appearance on the label, incidentally: in 2000 EMI Belgium recorded him in piano duos by Piazzolla and Ziegler with his sister Karen Lechner.
Tiempo certainly likes to live dangerously and challenge conventional wisdom. From the first bars of Pictures, one’s eyebrows might be raised at the unusually fast pace of the visitor to the gallery – but allegro giusto is what Mussorgsky asks for and what Mussorgsky gets. The ‘Promenade’ after ‘Goldenberg and Schmuyle’ is omitted, the upbeats of ‘Bydlo’ are played with appoggiaturas, and there are other small textural tinkerings…but if you like character, conviction and imagination in a pianist, then Tiempo’s tour of the exhibition is an enthralling and often exhilarating experience.
The three Nocturnes could almost pass as improvisations. Tiempo is a colourist in love with the infinite variety a piano can produce. As an illustration of discriminating tone and touch they could hardly be bettered. These are qualities that serve Tiempo well in Gaspard, one of the most compelling and dramatic accounts since that of his mentor Martha Argerich (10/98). However, I seriously part company with him in ‘Le gibet’ and the passage beginning at 3’18” which, after an unwarranted sforzando chord, he plays fortissimo: perverse – and simply wrong. But in these days of musically bland, homogenised pianists, anyone with Tiempo’s charisma and individuality can, perhaps, be forgiven such a lapse.