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

Acclaimed French pianist Pascal Rogé gave a lunchtime recital at Wigmore Hall on Monday featuring works by three towering figures of French piano music – Debussy, Ravel and Poulenc. The hour-long concert afforded the audience a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the most wondrous pianism, from the graceful, subtly nuanced soundworld of Debussy’s Suite bergamasque to Ravel’s glittering Sonatine and closing with Poulenc’s vivid and characterful Les soirées de Nazelles.

Parisian-born Rogé has a deep affinity with these composers, with countless celebrated performances and an impressive discography. I have enjoyed Rogé’s pianism on disc and have for a long time wanted to hear him live.

Debussy’s Suite bergamasque was written in 1890 and owes much to the poet Paul Verlaine and his Fêtes galantes.Verlaine in turn was inspired by the painter Watteau, whose works evoked the elegant and frivolous pleasures of eighteenth-century French society, and his poems – and Debussy’s Suite – also draw inspiration from the Italian Comedia del’arte.

Debussy’s writing is subtle and elusive in rhythm and harmony, with an undercurrent of sadness and poignancy which runs through the four movements. Roge’s lucid playing highlighted many of the details, layers and nuances in the music which other performers may overlook, too keen to emphasise the “impressionistic” nature of Debussy’s writing (a term which the composer himself despised). There was vibrancy too, in the ‘Prelude’ and the ‘Passepied’, emphasised by sensitive pedalling and a clear sense of line. No muddy soundwashes here, ‘Clair de Lune’ seemed to float, suspended and shimmering, yet with a gorgeous clarity too.

When Ravel composed his Sonatine he had already completed Jeux d’Eau, an inspired addition to the impressionist repertoire of the piano, and it seemed unlikely he would turn back to a classical antecedent. However, he was tempted by a competition for the first movement of a sonatina: as it turned out, he was the only entrant. The delicate figurations, which act as an accompaniment (together with the bass line) in the first movement, clearly show the influence of the “running water” arpeggiated figures of Jeux d’Eau.

As in the Debussy, so in Ravel Rogé displayed remarkable precision combined with sensitivity in touch, articulation, tonal shading, phrasing and voicing, all coupled with an astonishing control of the piano which results in the most delicious, sparkling palette of sounds and colours. His magical sense of timing and spare rubato in the opening movement was, for me, one of the most wondrous moments in the entire recital.

In contrast to the intricate traceries of Ravel and Debussy’s kaleidoscopic soundworld, Poulenc’s Les Soirées des Nazelles was bold and spirited, full of improvisatory passages and rapid shifts of mood, dynamic and tempo. Rogé gave a rich and full-blooded performance, which really brought the virtuosic nature of this suite to life.

Satie’s rarely heard Gnossienne No. 5 was the encore – voluptuous in tone, simple and tasteful, a delight!

 

Meet the Artist……Pascal Rogé

(picture credit: Mary Robert)

 

Photo: Jean-Baptiste Millot

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and make it your career?

The power of music. the piano repertoire

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

Certainly love!

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

A solo concert with virtuoso studies for the TV channel Mezzo.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

A performance I did some months ago while I felt free.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

Romantic works

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

I like doing a mix of new pieces and old pieces I’ve already played

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

London of course, because it’s the first time!

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

Brahms trio opus 8

Who are your favourite musicians?

Radu Lupu, Gilels, Schnabel, Lipatti…

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I‘m very sensitive with the acoustic, and I must say that the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful hall for the acoustics.

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

To be honest with the composer and yourself.

What are you working on at the moment?

Many programmes with Scriabin, Chopin, Saint-Saens, Brahms, Schubert and some contemporary composers

What is your present state of mind?

Amused
Geoffroy Couteau gives a recital of works by Scriabin, Saint-Saëns, Liszt and Chopin at the Institut français, South Kensington on Sunday 6 April, 5:30pm as part of It’s all About Piano!

www.geoffroycouteau.com

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and make it your career?

I was born in a musical family and there were 3 pianos at home, my mother was a pianist…my choice was obvious!

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

First my mother, she was my only teacher till the age of 9.Then my teachers at the Paris conservatory, Lucette Descaves, Louise Clavius Marius, Geneviève Joy, Pierre Pasquier, and above all Julius Katchen, whom I met when I was 16, more than a teacher, a mentor, an inspiration, I should also mention two great ladies…Marguerite Long and Nadia Boulanger.

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

Always being at the top of my musical abilities and being able to pass through my emotions and my love for music…and enjoy life!

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

Performances are not to be remembered…each of them is a “once in a lifetime” experience, but out of my +\- 300 performances of the Ravel G Major Concerto, I do remember the one in London with Mariss Jansons…something special happened on that day…

Recordings…I still enjoy many of them because I always made a point not allow the release of a recording I was not happy with…but if I need to keep some on a desert island – the St Saens Piano concerti with Charles Dutoit, the Fauré Piano Quintets with the Ysaye quartet and the first CD with my wife, “Wedding cake”

Which particular works do you think you play best?

The French repertoire in general but almost anything I play, since I would never perform a work which I don’t enjoy or I am not convinced I can bring something personal in it.

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

For the reasons I just mentioned…because I love the pieces I play and I can express myself with them.

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

Nearly all the concert halls in Japan…acoustics, design, installation, they arealways perfect…and filled with a fantastic audience.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

The French repertoire in general, with perhaps at the top, Ravel G Major Concerto and Debussy ‘La Mer’ (with my wife)
To listen to…very different and more “eclectic” music…Opera…Jazz…never piano music!

Who are your favourite musicians?

Glenn Gould, Carlos Kleiber, Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald…

What is your most memorable concert experience?

The creation of a new concerto for 2 pianos written for me and my wife by Australian composer Matthew Hindson, at the Sydney Opera House with Sydney symphony orchestra conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy.

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

To be yourself, express something unique, think different, enjoy everything you do, and as Debussy said: “N’écoute que les conseils du vent qui passe…”

What are you working on at the moment?

Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’ in the 4 hands version.

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

Traveling the world…in good health…

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

My life at the moment..traveling the world with my wife, playing music and using Apple devices…!

What is your most treasured possession?

My iPad

What do you enjoy doing most?

Living the way I live! (See previous question!)

What is your present state of mind?

Extremely happy…!

Pascal Rogé gives a masterclass at the Institut français, South Kensington on Saturday 5 April, 6pm followed by a recital of music for four hands with his wife, Ami Rogé on Sunday 6 April, 6:30pm as part of It’s All About Piano!

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and make it your career?

My mother chose the piano for me. I was a small child. I was inspired by Furtwängler conducting Beethoven’s 9th symphony. The slow movement made me cry. I chose music so I could be moved throughout my life.

 

 

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

Denyse Rivière, Marcel Ciampi and Paul Badura-Skoda.

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

Every concert, every meeting with a great artist, is the greatest challenge for me.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

None, except the one I had in my dream last night.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

None. Because at the end of one performance, I know exactly what not to do the next time.

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

I never plan. It’s a difficult question to answer. It’s just like a love story; you don’t know who you are going to fall in love with. Each season it’s a new surprise, a new love story.

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

Usually the most important concert is just the next one. There is no difference between a small village and Carnegie Hall.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

I listen like crazy to the music from the film The Umbrellas of Cherbourg by Michel Legrand.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Usually, the greatest dead ones because they are the most inspiring and they are no longer dangerous.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

In Kuala Lumpur. When I arrived on stage, there were no pedals on the piano.

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

To always be curious and inspired by the past. And I can say for myself that I love the past. It’s more relaxed than the present and much more secure than the future.

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

How can I answer this question, when I don’t know where I’ll be in the next ten hours?

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

To fly in love (not fall).

What do you enjoy doing most?

I watch movies all the time, for example, Umbrellas of Cherbourg by Jacques Temy, Le Charme discret de la Bourgeoisie by Louis Bunuel, and all Frederic Fellini’s movies. And occasionally I like to practice.

What is your present state of mind?

I feel totally out of my mind. Fauré and Schubert are depressing me. The music is so very sad.

Jean-Marc Luisada gives a recital of works by Fauré, Schubert and Chopin at the Institut français, South Kensington on Saturday 5 April, 4pm as part of It’s all About Piano!

www.jeanmarcluisada.com