Seated in front of a “little café” near the Saint-Augustin church in Paris, Jean-Philippe Collard came “as a neighbor” from his work studio. At 75, the man has lost none of his appearance or his look of his liveliness.
The pianist willingly evokes the anecdote, 100% true, which accompanies the release of his recent CD devoted to the music of Gabriel Fauré (1). During a car journey, he heard the composer’s Première Barcarolle on the radio in an interpretation that he found very bad. Surprise (unflattering) when the announcement reveals that it is his own recording, made in 1970 under the EMI label. Never mind, Jean-Philippe Collard will correct the error and put the Barcaroles back on his desk!
Result, a vision less whimsical, more united, more sober too. And meticulous sound research that gives these pieces the clarity but also the mysterious depth of mountain lakes. “I’m not saying it’s ‘the’ version and I know that convinced Faureans preferred the first, nuance the person concerned. But it is the one that suits me today, the Fauré with whom I feel familiar. »
Make the piano sing
The easy verb, the flower of humor and the delicious urbanity, Jean-Philippe Collard mixes memories of his beginnings and current quest – never completed – of the secrets of his instrument. After the Conservatory, from which he left “at 16 knowing nothing”, he worked with the pianist Pierre Sancan who meticulously built up his technique “with two hours of intensive digital work each day”. In 1969, the young artist won fifth prize at the Long-Thibaud Competition, “behind four unbeatable Russians who then dominated the circuit! “.
Even today, if he recognizes the galloping virtuosity of pianists “who play always faster and always louder to meet the demands of huge halls and the taste of certain music lovers”, it is elsewhere that he cultivates his garden. “The older I get, the more I think it’s the sound that matters. How to make an instrument sing whose mechanism consists of hammers striking strings under the impulse of fingers striking keys? How to create the organic link between a note that dies and the next one that is born? Mimicking the bow sliding gracefully on the violin, Jean-Philippe Collard claims to want to “launch the sound at the listener like a missile of tenderness”…
A pianist, a sound
Pushed to its limits by a “musical globalization” which, according to him, “places performance above sensitivity”, he refocuses on what he considers “essential”. “Anyway, as in the past when faced with Russian prodigies, I couldn’t compete with the new piano athletes,” he smiles without false modesty. However, no bitterness in his voice but a wisdom based on lucid analysis and the pleasure of seeing that “the fingers always work”. And also to explain how the morphology of the pianist comes into play… in his playing. ”. Like my friend, the much-missed Nicholas Angelich, incomparable in Brahms. French music is more natural to me. »
Musical director of the Flâneries de Reims – his region of origin – from 2012 to 2022, Jean-Philippe Collard founded an association intended to widely transmit music outside its usual circuits. “A piano and a truck, and I can travel the roads from village to village to establish contact with the inhabitants. It changes from the solitary atmosphere of round-the-world tours, travels and hotels. And I now have the joy of taking on board musician friends, anxious to share their art and their passion with a new audience. Together, they launch many “missiles of tenderness”, signed Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin or Ravel.
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