For her first album, pianist Élisabeth Pion offers us a selection of pieces for solo piano that are all French… or almost! The album’s title might suggest that this is an opus devoted to mythical female composers, but not quite. Instead, the title refers to Mel Bonis’s piano suite Femmes de légende, which opens the album. The album features equal numbers of compositions by men and women from the turn of the 20th century in France: Mel Bonis, of course, but also Lili Boulanger, Claude Debussy and Henri Dutilleux. Pion allows herself, by her own admission, a small departure from her temporal and geographical constraints by including in the playlist a work by British composer Thomas Adès, the lullaby from the opera The Exterminating Angel, as well as one of her own compositions, Balcony on a Wednesday Night. These are judicious choices, as they fit in perfectly with the tone of the album, without going completely unnoticed.
Élisabeth Pion’s playing is sensitive, profound and accurate. The pieces selected for this album are complex, sometimes troubling, and the young pianist’s nuanced interpretation does them justice. The musician’s personal process leading up to the birth of this album is well described and documented in the disc’s booklet. Listeners are invited to share in this journey among Pion’s favourite works. The booklet notes, written by the pianist herself, describe each of the works featured on the album and further underline the pianist’s personal approach and interpretation. The pleasure and passion are clearly on display in this recording. We happily rediscover well-known pieces from the piano repertoire, such as Debussy’s L’Isle joyeuse, and are introduced to new works that we’ll want to hear again and again.