Pascale Berthelot: Saison Sècrete (RJAL 397037)

Pascale Berthelot
Saison Secrète

Pascale Berthelot piano
Recorded November 29, 2018
Studios La Buissonne, Pernes-les-Fontaines
Engineer: Gérard de Haro
Mastered by Nicolas Baillard at La Buissonne Mastering Studio
Steinway grand piano prepared and tuned by Alain Massonneau
Release date: October 26, 2020

Pianist Pascale Berthelot, a remarkable interpreter of (and favorite among) living composers, becomes one herself—in a sense—throughout this program of five extended improvisations. Liberated at the behest of Gérard de Haro, engineer and head of Studios La Buissonne in France, these unabashedly visual evocations of in-the-moment imaginings constitute one of the most multidimensional piano recordings I’ve heard in years. While its impressionism lays its head as much on the shoulder of Poulenc as Jarrett, it shapes itself one body part at a time without the ultimate need for such comparative garments. Regardless of the lines of reckoning we might connect from Earth to its distant galaxy, it validates the listener’s imagination, and in that spirit I offer mine in return.

“Balance des étoiles” opens the curtains as if in expectation of morning but instead finds the moon masquerading as the sun, rising in mimicry of dawn. The toes become restless for the feel of soil between them, the heart for a lamp to light the way. What began as a reverie ends as a descent into ocean, where prose and poetry comingle until the difference is impossible to make out. In “Ciel s’illune,” the sky and earth are flipped, so that another distinction—that between inhalation and exhalation—is rendered mythological. When we at last get to the center of this genetic spiral, “Nuits, chères” abandons the lie of tranquility for the truth of its unsettling, thus evoking the bliss and deeper love that a relationship conflict can yield. Even in “Chambre sans langage,” in which the intonations of dampened piano strings resound like a knock at the door, spiritual tendencies move beyond prayer into communion. And so, when the dream of “Clair éclat de l’M” lights a ponderous candle with its tongue, it adds one last link to the chain we’ve been extending all along, dragging behind us a memory box whose contents we have already forgotten.

And yet, we mustn’t fool ourselves into thinking that the world Berthelot describes existed before these utterances. Rather, we experience it as she does, unfolding in real time at the touch of flesh and key until something inevitable arises. Thus, the recording itself is a song made up by a child lost in the woods, holding on to lullabies as the only answers to her questions of fear and emerging all the stronger for it.

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