Good Night! – Bertrand Chamayou, piano (Erato/Warner Classics)
Don’t listen to this album if you’ve got work to do or a project to complete. This captivating, engrossing album of lullabies, or berceuses, will make you want to ease back in your chair, or retreat to somewhere more comfortable – perhaps a chaise longue, or even your bed. Turn the lights low and allow pianist Bertrand Chamayou’s exquisite, expressive soundworld to envelope you (the album is recorded in Dolby Atmos immersive sound which is at once intimate and vivid).
For Chamayou, a self-confessed night owl who resists the calls of Morpheus and relishes the tension between the awake and almost-but-not-quite asleep states, the lullaby’s “place is halfway between dream and reality”, a curious borderland of the most varied emotions, from tenderness to fear (fear of the dark, fear of nightmares), delight or anguish when night thoughts can overwhelm and give little chance of rest. The lullaby is also representative of the special bond between babies and children and their parents and carers, who provide comfort and reassurance.
The inspiration behind this album was in part due to the fact that Chamayou had recently become a father himself, taking on the roles of “tucker-up and comforter”. The piano repertoire contains some of the most beautiful examples in the genre, from the rocking bass line and delicate filigree figurations of Chopin’s Berceuse to Brahms’s ever-popular Wiegenlied (Cradle Song), but Chamayou also reveals some lesser-known lullabies by Lyapunov, Mel Bonis and Martinu. Nor is the night-time landscape always calm and restful: Busoni’s Berceuse is dark and hallucinatory, for which Chamayou creates an almost impressionistic wash of sound and colour, and Balakirev’s has a nightmarish funeral march at its centre. The album title comes from the first track Good Night! from Janacek’s On An Overgrown Path, a piano miniature in which the briefest of ideas is obssessed over to produce music freighted with a poignant tenderness. Meanwhile, Bryce Dessner’s Song For Octave, written for his own son, has a hynoptic ostinato redolent of Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel and a haunting minimalist melody.
At the risk of sounding a little trite, each work on this bewitching disc is lovingly played, Chamayou finding much beauty and elegance in simple lyrical melodies and gossamer figurations. His tempos are sensitive and supple, with an insouciant rubato which never feels contrived.
We live in noisy, anxious times and this charming album offers much-needed respite and a balm to the soul.
Good Night! is available now on the Erato/Warner Classics label and via streaming. Liner notes by Bertrand Chamayou in French, English and German