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Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music?

I saw a grand piano at the house of a friend of my parents. She was a piano teacher, she explained me the mechanism of the instrument, she played a bit… I fell in love. I was 2 and a half years old! I think I saw it as a huge toy, a gigantic noisy toy. Noisy but beautiful. So I immediately asked my parents if I could play the piano, but this teacher said “not before 5” so I had to wait. It was (apparently!) tough.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

My first piano teacher, Michèle Perrier, with whom I started the piano. I think she gave me a fundamental quality, curiosity, as well as an aspect that is more important every day of my life: discipline. Two qualities you absolutely need to keep “walking”!

Then of course you meet lots of different people who give you advises, who can impress you. If I had to give one other name it would be my teacher in the Paris Conservatoire, Gérard Frémy, who himself studied with Heinrich Neuhaus in Moscow. His words resonate every single day in my head.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

I could give you names of very difficult works I had to learn in a very short time like a Rachmaninoff third concerto at the same time as Bartok second concerto… but actually the main challenge today is to organize my personal work, when to work on what piece, how far in advance, to be sure I am ready for each concert. I play so much repertoire that I always work on several programmes at the same time, and this brings much more stress than actually performing.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

Proud?…. Never really proud of a performance. Very happy, it happens. It’s more a question of repertoire. I will always remember some works, at some nights in some concert halls… Liszt sonata in Wigmore Hall in London last July, my first Sonatas and Interludes by John Cage in a friend’s Gallery, again in London… or the Ravel concerto at Carnegie Hall… it’s impossible to make a hierarchy.

For the recordings…. Impossible to say. Maybe the series of three Bartok as I was (and still am) deeply in love with his music. I think the result is a good “picture” of who I am now as a musician.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

The pieces I love the most! Works in which I really feel there is a story to tell. Actually, I don’t think there are works I play which I don’t love….

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

It’s following a mysterious logic, one programme makes me think of another. Playing the Berg sonata made me think of the Liszt sonata because of its key (B minor) and its contrast of length…. It can be suggestions from my recording company (Bartok). Or very simply musical “crushes”, works I forgot…. It always takes a long time to build a recital programme as each work in it must have its reason to be there, and must have a link with the other pieces. The way you organize a recital programme makes it alive (or not). For me, it’s a long (and sometimes painful ) process to find the perfect match or balance.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

There are many. But Wigmore Hall will always be “my” musical home. It has a special energy, a special acoustic, a special history. I must have performed more than 40 concerts there so “my” history there makes it even more special.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Impossible to say. I’m usually very happy to be on stage and it’s very often a powerful experience. I could name too many. There are special legend places where you think “wow…. I’m playing there”. Carnegie Hall in NY, Musikverein in Vienna, Royal Albert Hall for the Proms in London, Severance Hall in Cleveland or Chicago Symphony Hall… or the Paris Philharmonie

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

The possibility to play what you want. It’s when there is only happiness to perform. It’s a well-balanced life, without the necessity to play “more” concerts. It’s when you can say “no”. It’s when you work the people you want and love (especially Alina Ibragimova!)

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Discipline, curiosity and communication. It should drive people’s personality inside and outside music. Curiosity keeps you alive. The desire to keep discovering, maybe change your ways to see new/different things. Meeting new people….

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

In my house with my family.

 

Cédric Tiberghien’s new recording of Chopin’s 24 Preludes, Piano Sonata No 2 & Scherzo No 2 is released on 27 October on the Hyperion label. Further information

Cédric Tiberghien’s flourishing international career sees him performing across five continents in some of the world’s most prestigious halls, including Carnegie Hall in New York, the Kennedy Center in Washington, the Royal Albert Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Wigmore Hall and Barbican in London, the Salle Pleyel and the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, Berlin’s Bechstein Hall, Salzburg’s Mozarteum, the Sydney Opera and Tokyo’s Bunka Kaikan and Asahi Halls.

Over the years, Cédric Tiberghien has established a strong reputation with a recital repertoire focusing on the music of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Brahms, Debussy, Ravel, Szymanowski, Bartók and Berg.

Cédric Tiberghien studied at the Paris Conservatoire with Frédéric Aguessy and Gérard Frémy and was awarded the Premier Prix in 1992, aged just seventeen. He was then a prize winner at several major international piano competitions (Bremen, Dublin, Tel Aviv, Geneva, Milan), culminating with the First Prize at the prestigious Long-Thibaud Competition in Paris in 1998, alongside five special awards, including the Audience Award and the Orchestra Award. This propelled his international career, leading to over 150 engagements worldwide, including visits to Japan and appearances throughout Europe.

With over sixty concertos in his repertoire, Cédric Tiberghien has appeared with some of the world’s finest orchestras and conductors. He is also a dedicated chamber musician, with regular partners including violinist Alina Ibragimova, soprano Sophie Karthäuser, baritone Stéphane Degout, violist Antoine Tamestit and cellist Pieter Wispelwey. His passion for chamber music is reflected in a number of recordings for Hyperion with Alina Ibragimova, including Ravel, Schubert, Szymanowski and the complete Mozart sonatas. He has also recorded piano concertos by Dubois, solo piano music by Karol Szymanowski, including Masques, Métopes and two sets of Études, and has undertaken a survey of Bartók’s piano music encompassing three albums.

 

 

(photo: Jean-Baptiste Millot)

album_coverLucas Debargue: Scarlatti, Chopin, Liszt Ravel (Sony)

Escape all the noise and fall out of Brexit and the Conservative Party leadership wrangling with this exquisite debut disc by Lucas Debargue, the young French pianist who came fourth in the prestigious Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in 2015.

Weightless elegant Scarlatti opens this album which was recorded live at the Salle Cortot in Paris, Debargue’s first concert in his hometown after the competition. His sense of pacing, evident in the Scarlatti sonatas, really comes to the fore in his reading of Chopin’s Fourth Ballade, where he balances delicacy and poetry with drama to create a performance which is both intimate and expansive. The real impact comes when he holds the music in suspense: it feels natural and unpretentious. His performance of Gaspard de la Nuit, the work for which he received much enthusiastic acclaim during the competition, is equally impressive. His clarity of touch and tone combined with that wondrous pacing brings a silky sensuality to ‘Ondine”s watery arabesques while ‘Scarbo’ is less grotesque, more puckish and playful, though no less dark for it. In between these movements, ‘Le Gibet’ is seven minutes of restrained desolation. His Liszt is a proper waltz instead of the headlong frenzy some pianists give to this work. The Grieg is like an encore, a calming salve after Liszt’s twirling rhyhms. The Schubert is as intimate as you like, as if Debargue is playing just for you – and playful too, reminding us that Schubert was a composer of dances and Ländler. And in a neat piece of programming the album closes with Debargue’s variation on the Scarlatti Sonata in A which opens the album.

At the Tchaikovsky Competition, the Moscow Music Critics Association awarded him their prize for “the pianist whose incredible gift, artistic vision and creative freedom have impressed the critics as well as the audience”, and his debut disc demonstrates these attributes in spades.

Highly recommended.

Lucas Debargue’s performances at the Tchaikovsky Competition are still available to view on the Medici TV site

If you would like to contribute a review to ‘If You Listen to One Thing This Week….’ please contact me here

 

Olivier Messiaen’s monumental work Vingt Regards sur l’enfant Jésus (Twenty Contemplations on the Infant Jesus) surely ranks amongst the “greats” of the piano repertoire, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier and Beethoven’s 32 Piano Sonatas in terms of its scale, variety and pianistic challenges. It is one of the most ground-breaking works in 20th-century piano music, a work which has accrued iconic status and deep respect. It combines richly-hued romanticism and the spare modernism that influenced Messiaen’s pupil, Pierre Boulez, and reveals many of Messiaen’s preoccupations and interests – birdsong, eastern rhythms and instruments, cosmology, religious iconography and his own deeply-held Catholic faith.

French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard enjoys the special distinction of having known Messiaen personally, and he studied with Yvonne Loriod (who premiered the work in March 1945 and who became the composer’s second wife in 1961). Aimard has a long-standing and highly-respected relationship with Messiaen’s piano music and it remains a core part of his repertoire. He is also a champion of modern and contemporary piano repertoire, and as a result he brings to this music a special understanding of Messiaen’s unique approach to pitch, rhythm, sonority and attack.

Read my full review here

(photo credit: Paul Mitchell)

Prom 29 had a distinctly French flavour, featuring music by Ravel and Messiaen, two composers who idolized Mozart, whose music opened the evening. The concert was bookended by two works in which dance featured strongly, from Mozart’s elegant post-Baroque ballet sequence for Idomeneo to Ravel’s swirling, breathless portrait of the disintegration of fin-de-siècle Vienna. Ravel also looked to Mozart’s piano concertos as a model for his own, and the vibrant, jazzy G major concerto formed the second part of the first half of the programme, performed by French pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet.

Read my full review here

Brouillards swathed the Wigmore audience in mist, yet the sound was never foggy”

Photo credit: Guy Vivien
Photo credit: Guy Vivien

Occasionally one comes across an artist who seems so at one with the music, that one can almost hear the composer at the artist’s shoulder saying ”yes, that is what I meant”. Such was the effect of French pianist François-Frédéric Guy’s performance of Beethoven’s final Piano Sonata, the Op.111, at London’s Wigmore hall on Friday night: a performance replete in insight and an emotional intensity which comes from a long association with and admiration for this composer and his music.

Read my full review here

(photo: Marco Borggreve)

I first heard French pianist Alexandre Tharaud at the Wigmore Hall in October 2013, and his performance of Bach, Schubert and Chopin left me somewhat underwhelmed.

In his concert at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of the International Piano Series, he left me wanting more….

How clever of Alexandre Tharaud to open his QEH concert with Schubert’s Moments musicaux, salon pieces which combine charm and tenderness with an unsettling edginess to create Schubert’s emotional and musical landscape in microcosm. From the opening notes of the first of the suite, Tharaud imbued the music with intimacy and set the tone for the whole evening, even in the more extrovert sentences of Ravel’s “Alborada del gracioso” from Miroirs. This was piano playing which encouraged concentrated listening.

Read my full review here