Lise de la Salle is a very young pianist from France who is getting the full-press treatment. The sentence fragment in the title, taken from the CD's booklet, goes on: "... Lise's gaze is intense and haunted." This sort of purple adman prose, coupled with the cover picture of what at first glance appears to be a porcelain doll, leads one to expect that she is simply one of those glamor babes who can't really play. Well, to the contrary, she can play very well. And indeed, having heard her in live performance, I can attest that the recordings she has made have not been manufactured in the studio. However, in reviews of previous recordings I have commented on some tendency on her part to play in a very mannered way, at least in some pieces.
This CD contains three spiritied concerti written by young composers. Both the Prokofiev and Shostakovich concerti were indeed written when they were still in conservatory. The Liszt was actually written when he was in his early forties but it was his first essay in the concerto form. All three concerti are brilliant in their effect, and in all three of them Mlle de la Salle makes a brilliant impression. She certainly has the chops for this virtuosic music. However ...
Once again we have some problems. The recorded sound becomes clattery at times. In a previous review I commented (and I heard in the recital I attended) that she never makes an ugly sound. But there are some ugly sounds on this recording and I think that must be the fault of the engineers or the piano technician. Perhaps a more mature and confident soloist would have refused to have the CD released on this account, but one can hardly expect a pianist not yet in her twenties to have that sort of presence of mind or the requisite clout with her handlers.
Also, the accompaniments by the Gulbenkian Foundation Orchestra under Lawrence Foster, while still generally musically acceptable, have more than the expected amount of poor intonation and ensemble. One wonders what these concerti would have sounded like accompanied by, say, the Vienna Philharmonic or indeed the Orchestre de Paris.
Bottom line: These performances certainly make it clear that Mlle de la Salle is a talented musician, although still somewhat callow, and that, as I've said before, she is a pianist to watch. I would venture to say that if she continues to have a career -- and how many young pianists have we seen become shooting stars, glowing briefly and then disappearing? -- she should record these three concerti again in ten or twenty years, and with a better orchestra and sound engineer. That might be something to treasure. But this issue is uneven enough, and in a field that has deep and outstanding competition, that I cannot give it more than a moderate recommendation.