Wednesday 22 September 2010

Emmanuel Despax

On Sunday we were at the Wigmore Hall for a recital by Emmanuel Despax. In a generous and wide-ranging programme, Despax gave us and exciting and technically demanding programme. He started with a pair of Bach transcriptions, Busoni's Chorale prelude: Ich ruf'zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ and Myra Hess's Jesu Joy of Mans Desiring. These were followed by a stirring performance of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. Despax is one of those pianists who has an ability to play loudly whilst retaining subtlety, his performance had this quality in spades. It lacked the raw power and earthiness that can be brought to the piece; Despax's Pictures were highly sophisticated, but powerful nonetheless.

The second half started with a beautifully modulated account of Chopin's Barcarolle in F sharp minor. This was followed by the same composers 12 Etudes Opus 10. I must confess that I have never heard all 12 Etudes played continuously as a concert piece and in Despax's hands this worked well. His technical facility was admirable, though one or two of the early studies remained firmly rooted in the technical study. But gradually, the poetic nature of Chopin's inspiration took hold till we concluded with a bravura performance of the Revolutionary Study.

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