Thursday, March 21

Pianist Collard leaves Beethoven behind


Pianist Collard leaves Beethoven behind

Performer brings refined elegance to LACMA recital

By John Mangum

Daily Bruin Staff

Rarely do Los Angeles audiences get to hear an artist of
Jean-Philippe Collard’s caliber.

And when they do, it’s usually in the cavernous Dorothy Chandler
Pavilion or the no more intimate Ambassador Auditorium. Eschewing
these venues, the French pianist will give a recital at the Los
Angeles County Museum of Art’s Bing Theater tonight.

The smaller theater allows Collard a chance to become more
involved with the audience, an interaction he views as essential to
making music.

"It’s very interesting to take a lot of signals from the
audience and then to make music together because, if it works, it’s
fantastic," Collard says. "If it doesn’t, it’s a disaster, but each
time you try to get the attention of the people.

"Sometimes they are coughing or there are a lot of noises, but
then suddenly there is a kind of communion. We’re making music
together, and that’s the most interesting thing in this business
­ to try every day to catch the attention of the audience and
to bring them on stage to share the music."

Collard has been in the business of making music for more than
two decades. The irony surrounding his debut in the United States
in 1973 is not lost on the pianist, and it has become well known
among those who appreciate his art.

"I first came to San Francisco because maestro Robert Casadesus
was sick and he canceled a few concerts with maestro Ozawa and the
San Francisco Symphony," says Collard.

Casadesus was one of the most gifted of an older generation of
French pianists. He was also a respected, albeit harsh, teacher
whom Collard only encountered once.

"I met him just before coming to the U.S., let’s say in ’69 or
’70. I was just awarded from the Paris Conservatory and my parents
got an appointment with him.

"I played for about 15 minutes, and at the end of my playing, he
said to my mother, ‘You know, this guy is still young. He should do
something else. He’s not ready to become a concert pianist.’ The
thing is, three or four years later, I made my debut in the United
States because Maestro Casadesus was sick, so it’s sort of a bit
strange."

Since this auspicious debut, not only has Collard toured the
world, he has also recorded much of his repertoire, and he makes a
clear distinction between public concerts and work in the
studio.

"There is no comparison at all," Collard declares. "There is no
feeling inside the studio for fresh inspiration."

The presence of an audience tonight guarantees that Collard’s
playing will come to life. His program includes a selection of
pieces by Gabriel Fauré, considered by Collard to be one of
the best French composers, and Francis Poulenc, as well as three
Études and the Piano Sonata No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninov.

Collard seems to prefer this more refined, expressive type of
music to the taut drama of Beethoven, a composer absent from his
repertoire. He attributes this more to his own temperament than to
any shortcomings on the composer’s part.

"I haven’t played any Beethoven pieces since 25 or 30 years
ago," Collard says. "I think I have nothing new, nothing
interesting, nothing personal to bring to it.

"I tried several times to play the Third Concerto, and from my
point of view it was not interesting, so I decided to stop and just
to wait, and maybe in a couple of years, or a couple of decades,"
Collard says with a laugh, "I’ll be able to play that music."

Perhaps. But Collard has discovered many things over the course
of his distinguished career aside from his incompatibility with
Beethoven, and the lessons he’s learned prove valuable for a
younger generation of musicians.

"Don’t be confused about the music. The most important part of
the music is sharing something with other people. It’s not to
become a very popular pianist, which is absolutely not
interesting.

"Sometimes I’m a little bit disappointed with my own way to make
music today," Collard says. "The most important pleasure that I get
is probably at home with some friends or listening to other
musicians. This is very deep.

"But, today we have to travel, we have to play, and we have to
become public stars. It’s not music. This is not interesting at
all, and it’s very difficult to travel all year, to have your
suitcase ready and to lose it on the flight, like yesterday. I have
no suitcase today," Collard says, finding the irony funny.

"It’s a detail, but this is not the real life for a
musician"

RECITAL: Jean-Philippe Collard, piano, plays Fauré, Poulenc
and Rachmaninov at LACMA’s Bing Theater tonight at 8. TIX: $9-$15.
Call (213) 857-6010 for more info UCLA students and faculty can
reserve half-price tickets by calling (213) 857-6115.

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