Sunday, July 27, 2008


Nice to see they loved Phillipe in Vermont:

Entremont wins over Opera House audience
July 27, 2008
By Jim Lowe Staff Writer

BARRE — The Barre Opera House has hosted a number of famous pianists, but the historic concert hall's Steinway concert grand has never sounded like it did Friday evening.

Philippe Entremont, a superstar pianist of the 1960s and '70s, elicited sounds that were big, beautiful and colorful. More importantly, he used these sounds to deliver the grandeur of Debussy.

Entremont was also joined by members of the New York Chamber soloists in music of Poulenc in this Vermont Mozart Festival concert.

But, most of the audience was there to hear this great French pianist and whether, at age 74, he still had "it."

In the 1960s, Entremont was Columbia Records' (now Sony Classical) answer to RCA's Van Cliburn, who had just won the Moscow Tchaikovsky Competition. Unlike Cliburn, Entremont continued concertizing and added conducting to his plate. (He has conducted and acted as piano soloist with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra several times.) During his younger years, Entremont performed and recorded the virtuoso repertoire with the likes of Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic and Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Many of these recordings never went out of print.

Which begs the aforementioned question: Can he still do it?

The answer is a resounding yes. And I doubt that there was anyone in Friday's audience who would disagree, given the enthusiastic standing ovation (the only one of the evening, despite some excellent performances by the others).

Entremont plays "macho" Debussy, which seems a contradiction in terms. In this performance of the three movement "Suite pour le piano," his sounds and gestures were big, yet his coloring and nuances were subtle and beautiful.

He worked with the confidence and directness of a master. He knows this music and delivered its myriad moods with authenticity.

Entremont was joined by the young flutist of the New York Chamber Soloists, Jennifer Grim, in Poulenc's Sonata for flute and piano. She played with a brilliant sound and a singing expressiveness. Entremont was a bit reserved but employed his palette of colors with subtlety. (Interestingly, he performed the chamber music with the piano wide open, but never overpowered the others.)

Entremont's charisma was in greater force in Poulenc's Sextuor for winds and piano. This is a masterpiece of color and textures, which the winds largely delivered (particularly Grim on flute and Allen Blustine on clarinet) beautifully.

The remainder of the program was sans Entremont. Grim offered an expressive but less-than-powerful Debussy "Syrinx" for flute alone. Oboist Mel Kaplan, the festival's artistic director, Blustine and bassoonist Andrew Schwartz, despite some roughness, delivered a charming performance of Darius Milhaud's "Suite d'aprè Corrette," while the wind quintet gave a witty performance of Ibert's "Trois Pièces Brèves."

This Vermont Mozart Festival Barre Opera House concert proved an eminently satisfying experience — and more.

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