Wednesday, 10 May 2017

CD Review (The Straits Times, May 2017)

  Sony Classical 88875192982 / ****1/2
  Sony Classical 88985341762 / *****

Lucas Debargue was the young French pianist at the centre of controversy in the 2015 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition when he was shunned by the jury for the top prize, garnering only 4th place in the final standings. His cause celebre was rewarded with these two recital recordings, issued by Sony Classical in quick succession. 

A unique talent far removed from the usual mould of child prodigy and conservatory-trained product, he began the piano at a late age, and received formal tutelage just four years before this unexpected “triumph”.

The first disc is an artist's calling card, filled with competition fodder like Liszt's Mephisto Waltz No.1, Ravel's Gaspard De La Nuit and Chopin's Ballade No.4 dispatched with relative ease. More telling is the extraordinary sensitivity displayed in four varied Scarlatti Sonatas and Grieg's Melody (from Lyric Pieces).

The second disc is a personal manifesto, beginning with utter clarity in Bach's Toccata in C minor and the unexpected choice of Beethoven's early Sonata in D major (Op.10 No.3), with each of its vastly disparate four movements bravely etched out in stone. 

The piece de resistance is Medtner's rarely heard Sonata in F minor (Op.5), where dark vistas and contrapuntal sophistication are melded with an irresistible vividness that is totally absorbing. Here is a name to watch for the future.

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