We had another absolutely fantastic evening at Breinton on Saturday. Pianist Emmanuel Despax gave a dazzling recital to a full house of members. His programme was dense and intense with two Beethoven Sonatas, Liszt's Funeralilles from Harmonies Poetiques, and Bach-Busoni Chaconne. Ever since I heard him for the first time about a year ago, I have had my eye on this talented pianist. As we have had a number of wonderful musicians at Breinton, our expectations are high, but Emmanuel's performance certainly did not disappoint us.
I love Chaconne. This piece was composed by the great genius of all time music history, Bach, originally for the unaccompanied violin. Busoni, the German/Italian composer and pianist, turned it into this amazing piano transcription. Violinists may disagree of course; Emmanuel mentioned that many violinists hate this piano version of Chaconne! But to me it is a masterpiece and I love it, it is full of beautiful harmony and rhythm, and I am convinced that our members enjoyed Emmanuel's interpretation. It was meticulous with polished notes and chords, and it was obvious that he had studied and prepared it with great care to be executed effectively. He was very powerful (those left hand octaves and lots of heavy chords!) but yet sensitive at the same time. And I don't mean he was only mechanically and technically skilled, because his expression was heart felt. When the music turned to a major key, it was quiet and subtle - absolutely beautiful. The final climax was dynamic. It was truly a thrilling performance, and I was very happy that it was played right in front of my eyes. By the way, Emmanuel said you must have big hands to play this piece - you must be able to reach 10ths, which I certainly can't do!
This was followed by Beethoven's Sonata No 31. It was the first time I'd heard this live and it was excellently played. The first movement, which is melodious and graceful, was flowing beautifully. He played it with great concentration and such acute precision.
Straight after the interval was Liszt's Funerailles from Harmonies poetiques at religieuses. This was absolutely jaw dropping. What a mesmerizing and passionately played funeral march it was. Those amazing left hand octaves (which remind one of Chopin's A flat Polonaise) left people gasping. From where I was sitting, I could see everyone sitting up, trying to get a good sight of Emmanuel's fingers move fast on the keyboard. I regretted so much not sitting on the keyboard side.....
The last piece, Beethoven's Sonata Op. 111, was the composer's final Sonata. It consists of only two movements. The programme notes from Making Music suggest, 'they demand the highest virtuosity technically and the deepest interpretative understanding'. Well, I think that is exactly what we heard from Emmanuel's playing. It was actually Emmanuel's first public performance of this Sonata, but I think it was superbly executed. It was very emotional and expressive with such depth and breath. A few members told me afterwards that it was their favourite of the evening. Let me quote from one of the message I received: 'I was completely captivated, particularly when he played such lengthy trills in the final movement holding the key note with his thumb and playing trills with his 3rd and 5th fingers'.
Emmanuel put his entire heart and soul into performing this programme - he must have been so exhausted. My friend Lesley said it was incredibly demanding programme which showed his immense dexterity and total commitment to every work. When we did not stop clapping and applauding, he came out and said there were repertoires after which you could never play anything else (i.e. encore pieces), and this evening's programme was one of them. We all understood.
- Bach Partita No 2 in D minor, Chaconne, arr Busoni
- Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat, Op. 110
- Liszt Funérailles (from Harmonies poétiques et religieuses)
- Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111
'œHis musicianship is described as prodigious, his career meteoric and, even at a young age, his reputation formidable.' The Press, Christchurch, New Zealand
'œHere was an outstanding performance by a young musician of great potential.' David Alker, Musical Opinion, UK
First prize winner in the Dudley International Piano Competition in England, performing Brahms 1st Piano Concerto in the final with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Seal..
Read Emmanuel's complete biography.