Lise de la Salle: When Do We Dance?

Products featured on Pianodao are selected for review by ANDREW EALES.

The French pianist Lise de la Salle is one of those rare prodigies who seem to arrive, fully formed, on the international concert scene at an improbably young age.

Signed by the Naïve Classique label when she was just 14 years old, de la Salle has performed internationally full time since she was 18, and by the time she was 20 she had already recorded three recital discs (featuring Rachmaninov, Ravel, Bach, Liszt, Mozart and Prokofiev) and a concerto disc (Shostakovich/Liszt/Prokofiev) under the baton of Lawrence Foster.

A further six discs later, and having recently turned 33, de la Salle is now back with a concept album of music for dance written by composers from three continents between 1850-1950, which she describes thus:

“An immersion in a variety of different worlds, juxtaposed without transition, linked together by the main thread of rhythm, movement. It’s a journey that explores the different ways in which dance takes possession of the body: with an amazing swing in North America, developing a strong, erotic sensuality, in South America and Spain, with reserve, elegance and sophistication in France, or through the expression of a late sentimental romanticism in eastern Europe and Russia.”

And it’s a stunning journey: all of the above and more…

Dancing round the world…

When do we dance? comprises the following generous 78’44” programme:

George Gershwin: when do we dance?
Art Tatum: tea for two
William Bolcom: graceful ghost rag
Fats Waller: vipers drag

Astor Piazzolla: libertango
Alberto Ginastera: danses argentines Op.2

Manuel de Falla: danza ritual del fuego

Maurice Ravel: valses nobles et sentimentales
Camille Saint-Saëns: étude en forme de vals

Béla Bartók: romanian folk dances

Igor Stravinsky: tango
Alexander Scriabin: waltz in a flat major
Sergei Rachmaninov: polka italienne

The streaming version adds the bonus of Debussy’s Mazurka L.67.

Here’s a couple of contrasting samples that the record company have shared on YouTube:

At no point is either de la Salle’s astonishing technical virtuosity or her polished musical finesse in doubt, but perhaps most impressive of all is the gorgeous range of colour in her playing. In the booklet note interview she explains,

“Each country, each continent has its own personality and sound…”

And she brings every vibrant colour, each subtle hue vividly to life. From joyous jazz, through passionate intensity and crystalline effervescence to warm clarity, de la Salle paints a world imbued with a sumptuous palette, delivered with the most skilful pianist brushstrokes.

And unifying this evocatively internationalist mosaic, de la Salle’s command of rhythm has both the incision and physicality required to pull the listener irresistibly into the world of dance.

Highs and lows? The Ginastera stands out to me as an astonishingly affecting emotive climax, while the Ravel and Russian items are ravishing. The Bartók meanwhile has a refined precision that is persuasively cool, but perhaps just a little too genteel for my taste.

The Recording

When do we dance? was recorded in August 2020 at the Teldex Studio in Berlin, produced. engineered (with the assistance of René Möller), edited, mixed and mastered by Christoph Classen.

Those purchasing the CD are treated to an open-out card sleeve housing a generous colour booklet featuring artist photos (Émilie Moysson), an insightful and quirky interview with de la Salle in French, English and German, and the full recording details.

When do we dance? is an album that I can guarantee will put both a smile on your face and a spring in your step. And it leaves no doubt at all that Lise de la Salle is a world-class artist relishing the dizzying peak of her powers. Superb!

The recording can be streamed on all major platforms.

Recent Recordings of the Month here on Pianodao:

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Published by

Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a widely respected piano educator, writer and composer based on Milton Keynes UK. His book HOW TO PRACTISE MUSIC is published by Hal Leonard.