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Masterful indeed

Jack Singer Concert Hall
09/09/2015 -  
Ludwig van Beethoven: Sonatas No. 24 in F-sharp minor Op. 78, No. 27 in E minor Op. 90 & No. 28 in A major Op. 101
Claude Debussy: Images (Série I) – L’Isle joyeuse
Maurice Ravel: from Miroirs: “Une barque sur l’océan”, “Alborada del gracioso” & “La Vallée des cloches”

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano)

J.-E. Bavouzet (© Paul Mitchell)

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet participated in the first Esther Honens International Piano Competition in 1992. He did not win the top prize, but was ranked third of five finalists. The intervening 23 years have seen him rise to the top rank of pianist worldwide, and for the 2015 competition he was Mentor in Residence to the ten semifinalists. His recital occurred on one of the two evenings separating the five-day semifinal round and the two final concerts of this year’s event. In contrast to the rather intense competition performances it proved an oasis of calm, measured contemplation.

None of the three Beethoven sonatas on the program are among the pianistic landmarks, but all of course are worth doing. The 24th Sonata began almost shyly (Adagio cantabile is indicated), then gave way to a well-paced Allegro ma non troppo. The bracing second movement was a lot of fun.

The 27th sonata demonstrated the key word describing Mr. Bavouzet’s style in the brief program notes: clarity. The whole piece was deft and conversational.

Sonata No. 28 is considered the first of the composer’s late period and contains a lot of subtle complexities, especially in the lengthy final movement’s fugal passages. Mr. Bavouzet worked his way through it all with apparent (and enviable) ease.

The second half was devoted to French music. The first of the Debussy Images set 1, “Reflets dans l’eau" indicated reflections with mconsiderable depth. This was followed by the pensive “Hommage à Rameau” and then the pulsating “Mouvement” with its flashes of brilliance.

He then performed the final three of the five sections of Ravel’s Miroirs. “Une barque sur l’océan” was notable for its highly controlled ebb and flow. “Alborada del gracioso”, as one would expect, skillfully conjured up its mood and sense of place. “La Vallée des cloches” moved implacably toward its conclusion, followed by a lengthy silence.

As a complete contrast - and perhaps to show he can also do pyrotechnics - the final work was a blistering account of Debussy’s L’Isle joyeuse.

The sole encore was Gabriel Pierné’s flashy, delightful Etude de concert Op. 13.

Michael Johnson



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