Legendary pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet announces Carte Blanche, a new album continuing his long-standing relationship with Decca Classics. Thibaudet has performed world-wide to audiences for more than three decades. A recording legend, the LA-based French artist has sold more than 1.5 million albums and generated 640 million streams. After more than 40 albums—including definitive recordings of Debussy’s Préludes, the complete solo piano works of Satie and Ravel, and creative arrangements of opera music and jazz—Carte Blanche features a host of musical gems close to Thibaudet’s heart.
To mark a milestone birthday and celebrate a new chapter in his relationship with the label, Thibaudet was given “carte blanche” by Decca to choose personal music that he has never recorded before—a selection that reflects on the people and pieces that have impacted his life as an artist while expanding his already diverse repertoire in new directions. Carte Blanche will be released on 10 September, following Thibaudet’s birthday on 7 September. The first single from the album, a Bill Charlap arrangement of Alec Wilder’s “I’ll Be Around,” is available to stream now (LINK).
“I have made many recordings of mainstream repertoire,” says Thibaudet, “so I wanted to do something more personal and intimate. These are pieces I love deeply – some I’ve played for my whole life – and each one reflects a special moment for me, has a story.”
Label Director Dominic Fyfe said, “I was delighted to invite Jean-Yves to make this very personal selection of pieces at a special moment in his life. Jean-Yves and I first worked together on his Gershwin recording in Baltimore back in 2009 and he is a true Decca icon with more than 40 albums across three decades. His recordings of the French masters have long been a benchmark and the breadth of his repertoire is astonishing. Carte Blanche is the perfect album to celebrate the versatility of this great artist to audiences old and new.”
Many pieces on Carte Blanche evoke the friendships Thibaudet has cultivated worldwide over his life. Enrique Granados’s “Quejas, o La maja y el ruiseñor,” is Thibaudet’s tribute to Alicia de Larrocha, while Morton Gould’s “Boogie Woogie Etude” appears in tribute to Shura Cherkassky, whose own “Prélude pathétique” also appears on the album. The liner notes for the album feature a conversation between Thibaudet and soprano Renée Fleming, who have a long history of friendship and collaboration. Fleming inspired Thibaudet’s arrangement of “When You Wish Upon a Star,” which uses Jesse Kissel’s arrangement as a starting point to capture, from a distance, his experience performing the piece with Fleming: “Renée, ‘When You Wish upon a Star’ is our song,” Thibaudet said in discussion with Fleming. “When we performed it for PBS last year, I really felt my piano was going into your voice, it was such a beautiful collaboration. So I took Jesse Kissel’s arrangement which he did for us, and toyed with it, so I could hear it when you’re not around. I played it every night during the pandemic.”
Other pieces, such as Chopin’s Waltz in A minor—the first piece of piano music Thibaudet ever heard—and Schubert’s “Kupelwieser-Walzer”—sourced from a photocopied fax by Thibaudet’s teacher Aldo Ciccolini—capture early memories on the piano. “Boîte à musique” was composed by Pierre Sancan, whom Thibaudet studied briefly with in Paris, while Elgar’s “Salut d’amour” appears in an arrangement by Ciccolini himself. “This is a tribute with all my heart to my teacher Aldo Ciccolini, who arranged Elgar’s violin piece for solo piano,” says Thibaudet. “There are other arrangements, but this one has beautiful voicings, gorgeous textures. He [Ciccolini] was such an important person in my life, and this is a tribute to that love – a real ‘salut d’amour’.”
A lifelong fan of cinema, Thibaudet has lent his talents to multiple award-winning film scores. Among these is Dario Marianelli’s Oscar-winning soundtrack to Pride and Prejudice, appearing on Carte Blanche in the form of a specially reworked suite for solo piano written by Marianelli and commissioned by Thibaudet. Thibaudet has often credited the soundtrack with bringing new audiences to his classical concerts, and it stands among his most popular recordings; “Dawn” alone has amassed 100 million streams.
Other highlights include Francis Poulenc’s “Hôtel,” arranged by Thibaudet; Gabriel Pierné’s virtuosic Étude de concert; the chanson “En avril à Paris,” arranged by Alexis Weissenberg; Liszt’s Consolation No. 3, and Brahms’s Intermezzo in A major. The album closes with Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, another arrangement by Thibaudet. “This was maybe the most difficult piece on the whole album,” Thibaudet says. “I had to find ways to make the piano sustain those long chords. What saved me was thinking about singers, and how much I’ve learned about breathing, legato, phrasing from them. I’ve always wanted to sing with my piano, and that’s what I tried to do here.”