On Friday we went to the Wigmore Hall for Emmanuel Despax's recital. Despax won the Jacques Samuel competition in 2005 and made is debut at the Wigmore Hall as a result. For his latest recital he provided a substantial and taxing recital, giving a profoundly satisfying performance. Opening with Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit, Despax demonstrated his technical mastery. But beyond that he displayed great emotional commitment to the music. Despax is still young (he's only 25) but his performances have great maturity and go far beyond mere showing off. As on previous visits to the Wigmore Hall, I rather found the tone quality of the piano a little glassy at the top end, despite Despax's fine technique. The Ravel was followed by Debussy's Children's Corner, almost a piece of light relaxation following the harrowing depths of the Ravel.
There was a single work in the 2nd half, Schumann's Etudes Symphoniques. Despax played these as a continuous whole, rather than a series of separate movements, and his speeds varied greatly thus contributing to the feeling of development. Again this is a taxing work, one that was designed to be so, and Despax was its equal, using his formidable technique at the service of the music.
Following some well deserved applause, Despax gave us two encores. The first, a short movement from Schumann's Kinderscenen. The second, a dazzlingly bravura account of Liszt's Mazeppa. Despite his playing such a long programme, this last piece seemed imbued with energy and virtuosic fire. A brilliant way to conclude a fine recital.