Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir
Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
Deutsche Grammophon, 2003
Hélène Grimaud’s album Credo has the aim to be «a reconciliation of all the opposites», featuring in little more than one hour four works by three extremely different composer, John Corigliano, Ludwig van Beethoven and Arvo Pärt. Credo is therefore an orderly combination of present and past, but overall it can be considered to collect uniformly “modern” music.
The most recognizable feature of Credo is to makes extremely easy to imagine Grimaud’s audacious musical journey as an ideal journey of a human soul, mapped out by the pianist’s excellent interpretation and, occasionally, by the fine performance of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.
The journey begins with tranquillity, I would like to say with stillness, as the rarefied music of Cordigliano’s Fantasia on an Ostinato gives the impression of superhuman quietness and is an invite to contemplation and to a state of primordial beatitude that Grimaud accentuates throught the soft and silvery sound of the piano. With Beethoven’s Sonata in D minor, the placid soul begins to explore new and intense feelings and the “tempest” to which the nickname of the sonata refers to is therefore an inner one: this is a “storm” of feelings and Grimaud plays it with unrestrained passion. The next piece is again by Beethoven, the Fantasia in C minor. Although the two movement in which the Fantasia is divided share the same light spirit, Grimaud gives free rein to gaiety and liveliness in the second, so that this becomes the most important expression of optimism and confidence of the entire album, in contrast with the other work by Beethoven and as an anticipation (on a lower level) of the finale.
Pärt’s Credo, at last, is a complex and long work (a pivotal one in the composer’s production) requiring piano, orchestra and chorus. Together with Grimaud’s fine playing, that is particularly impressive in the description of spiritual conflicts, the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra must be praised for the superb performance of the dissonances at the beginning. Moreover, the Choir sings with incommensurable emotion and with absolute conviction the word that gives the title to the work: «Credo».
The “journey”, then, is an exhaustive description of the feelings of a soul beginning with apathy to continue with the experience of troubles and happiness and to end with glory. Grimaud plays beautifully and the nuances she chooses are inspiring and appropriate, while her technique is superb. It is really a pleasure to follow her. The works, it is true, are taken from different eras, but, if at first the combination of Beethoven with Corigliano and Pärt does not seem a choice that can be shared, after a second listening and a deeper comprehension of the guiding thread of Credo, this is not so strange anymore.
The only flaw of the recording is the sound. For the major part of the time, this is extremely good and detailed, something that is valuable especially in Fantasia on an Ostinato with its soft sounds, but it becomes suddenly too loud when the chorus enters in Credo, creating an unpleasant disparity that later is only partially corrected. Apart from this little defect, Credo is a fine album thanks to Hélène Grimaud and to the metaphysical journey of the soul she offers.