Watch Francesco Piemontesi performing at the BBC Music Magazine Awards

Pianist Francesco Piemontesi has garnered a string of accolades that mark him out as a rising star, including his recent BBC Music Magazine Award, presented to him by Alfred Brendel.

“It is most gratifying that in a time when some careers are made with the excessive help of promotion, there is a young pianist with real talent, a pianist of natural poise and grace, of wonderful technical equipment, and of the ability to remind us what beautiful playing means: cantabile playing that is colourful, luminous and harmonious, without in the least lacking tension and atmosphere. I congratulate Francesco Piemontesi very warmly and wish him a wonderful future, and I congratulate the producer for the lovely sound on the record.” Alfred Brendel, speaking at the award ceremony at Kings Place in April.

Watch the award ceremony in full, or jump to 10’29 to watch Francesco Piemontesi performing live at the event:

Francesco Piemontesi makes his International Piano Series debut on Wednesday 7 November, 7.30pm at Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Find out more / book tickets

OAE’s Debussy remix competition

The Night Shift and French electronic artist Chapelier Fou are calling on all budding DJs and producers to put their mix where their mouth is.  This is an incredibly rare and unique opportunity for DJs to effectively get their hands on an entire Orchestra.
The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment have an exclusive recording of their rehearsal with the world famous conductor Sir Simon Rattle, playing one of the most influential composers in Western music; Claude Debussy (whose 150th Anniversary it is this year)… and they want you to remix it.

The samples you’ll be using are taken from their June recording of La Mer, Debussy’s ode to the sea, and not only is this your chance to have free rein over these one-off recordings, but the winner will be judged by innovative French musician and DJ; Chapelier Fou.

Entries must be submitted by 30 October and winners will be announced mid-November.

For full information and to enter, visit their website at:
http://www.oae.co.uk/2012/09/dubussy-remix-contest/

Watch exclusive footage with Sir Simon Rattle rehearsing the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in Debussy’s La mer

London’s ground-breaking classical night, The Night Shift, returns to Royal Festival Hall on Sunday 10 June, 10pm for its last appearance at Southbank Centre until the autumn.

One of the most famous conductors on the planet, Sir Simon Rattle conducts the 80-piece Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in two pieces by Claude Debussy.

Advance tickets are just £9

Book now / more info

Read review of the Instrumental Quintet of London

Instrumental Quintet of London

On Friday 27 January, The Instrumental Quintet of London put on a superb concert hosted by The Friends of All Saints Grayswood.

The stage was set, the line up being world renowned flautist Susan Milan with Nicholas Ward violin, Matthew Jones viola, Sebastian Comberti cello and Ieuan Jones on harp. This most prestigious line up of musicians wowed the audience with works by Damase, Mozart, Debussy, Beethoven and Jongen. Their tremendous technique, pure virtuosity and shear enjoyment of the music
prevailed throughout the concert and the wonderful acoustics enhanced the performance. Tuning was most accurate with the whole balance and control of dynamics within the ensemble being excellent.

I especially enjoyed the Damase Quintette Op. 2 with dreamy melodies and Prokofiev like playfulness, the interplay between all of the instruments was just exquisite. The delicate and subtle articulations in the Mozart Quartet in C, and the flexibility of all the players in the Jongen, using various effects, including harmonics was most impressive. In the Beethoven Trio in C
minor Op. 9, the balance in each contrasting movement was just perfect, with a robust, almost rhythmically jazzy figure passing from player to player in parts of the Scherzo. The beautiful lyrical phrases on the flute, always played with precision with just the right speed of vibrato, used with subtlety in the Mozart, but with an almost operatic like gradation of speed and variety of tone colour in the Debussy Sonate en trio, a most reflective work and also in the Jongen Concert a Cinque Op. 71. Here the
flute soared above the other instruments but with a unity and magic which gave the illusion of a huge ensemble. An encore at the end was an extra treat, ‘Marine’ from Prelude, Marine et Chanson by J.Guy Ropartz, was suitably calming.

I strongly recommend their next performance at Southbank Centre, London. Let’s hope they will play again at Grayswood and perhaps this is the start of a possible concert series.

Haslemere Herald, 30 January 2012

See the Instrumental Quintet of London play at Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room on Tuesday 28 February. Get tickets here. 

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet talks about

Pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet performs at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Sunday 23 October at 3pm. Here he explains the musical links between the pieces in his programme, from Haydn to Debussy and Bartok. To view the full programme and book tickets, click here.

For this IPS recital I wanted a programme where all the pieces are somehow connected to each other like musical ricochets.

We start with Haydn, with one of the most impressive of his sonatas, the only one he wrote in the famous Beethovenian key of C minor. Its proportions are surprisingly big (especially with all the repeats which I insist on doing, saving the codas for the end only) and although its sombre and almost austere character does not call for much embellishement, I take the liberty of including a cadenza before the end of the last mouvement, in which motifs of previous mouvements can be heard.

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet - c. Paul Mitchell

The little Hommage à Haydn seems an obvious transition to the sound world of Debussy. Listen carefully to how ingeniously Debussy uses the b-a-d-d-g motif in so many forms and functions: as melody, as accompaniment figuration, as bass, extremely fast in the treble. It is literally everywhere!

 Three pieces relating to the moon follow. I find it interesting to hear the spectacular evolution of Debussy’s harmonic language in the realm of a precise atmosphere and mood. Although we of course all have a soft spot for the beautiful Clair de lune, how sentimental it seems in comparison with the visionary aridity of Et la lune descend… ! In Et la lune…, isn’t there a flavour of Bartòkian night music at the end? And how even more passionate and almost Wagnerian La terrasse… sounds in this context !

As the setting of the ballet Jeux starts during the night we can actually hear a fourth night music, at least at the beginning. Playing Jeux for one piano alone is a challenge I must confess to being quite proud to present to the London public. After completing my two-piano transcription I had the desire to combine the two already quite heavy piano parts in one. The result is an extremely challenging score where all the constantly evolving thematic material is presented in its pure form without the luxurious orchestral texture. In this black and white version the musical connections with the Etudes written at the same time are even more obvious.

Bartòk wrote his seventh Improvisation in memory of Debussy. The contrast between the Hungarian text of the folk melody and the way Bartòk treats it is quite surprising. The three Etudes stand among the most difficult pieces Bartòk ever wrote. As one may expect each of them develop a specific technical challenge and are very different in mood. The spectacular originality of especially the first and third Etudes lies in the freshness with which Bartòk, an excellent pianist himself, approaches brand new technical pianistic challenges, untuckled by Liszt, Chopin and even by Rachmaninov or Prokofiev. Their harmonic language is of the most complex level and sounds surprisingly modern even to our ears. What Debussy said about his Etudes could very well apply to Bartòk’s: they fly way up to the ultimate technically and musically demanding pianistic challenges. This selection of 7 out of the 12 Etudes is completly arbitrary. Starting with the ironic simplicity of the Etude for the five fingers and ending with the brilliant one for the octaves seemed a natural choice. For a composer who is supposedly known for his soft treatment of the keyboard the ending of the Etude for the thirds with its con fuoco and con tutta la forza indications gives us an insight into how much broader then we might have thought Debussy’s pianistic world is. The one for the sixths sounds like a free improvisation but paradoxically follows a perfect pyramidal construction with a silence at its centre. Murmured and whispered wind effect is probably the best description of the Etude for the chromatic scales. Although far from being the loudest or the flashiest the Etude for the sonorités opposées (which I would be more inclined to call ” sonorités apposées”, “superposed sonorities”) is a fascinating example of how Debussy manages to give to the sound of the piano a new dimension of space and an illusion of distance, as if the sound was comming from far away. And even further… Bill Evans may have heard the Etude for the composed arpeggios. Or may not… In any case today we can not avoid hearing its smooth harmonies without think about jazz. The valse caprice-like Etude for the octaves is one of the most extrovert of the cycle and, like one of the musical ricochets mentioned earlier, reminds us of some of the valses of Jeux.

Copyright Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, October 2011

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet performs in the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Sunday 23 October at 3pm. To view his full programme and book tickets, click here.