Rising French pianist Lucas Debargue performs Maurice Ravel's three-part suite Gaspard de la nuit. Recorded at Tippet Rise Arts Center's Olivier Barn, Fishtail, Montana, United States, on August 21, 2016.
Though competent at the piano, Ravel was no virtuoso; so, when he set out to compose a work for the instrument that would be, in his own words, "more difficult than [Balakirev's] Islamey", he drew heavily on the brilliant pianistic style of Franz Liszt to fulfill his ambition. The resulting three-part suite, Gaspard de la nuit, forever changed the technical landscape of keyboard music. Perhaps pianist Alfred Cortot put it best when he called the work "one of the most extraordinary examples of instrumental ingenuity which the industry of composers has ever produced".
Gaspard de la nuit, subtitled "Three Poems after Aloysius Bertrand", takes as its inspiration Bertrand's same-titled 1842 collection of medieval tales, which the author claimed were whispered to him in the night by the devil, Gaspard. Each of the pieces in Ravel's suite is prefaced by one of the poems; no doubt the same macabre streak that led Ravel to spend many nights absorbed in the stories of Edgar Allen Poe is also responsible for the composer's powerful attraction to Bertrand's rather dark work. Gaspard was premiered in January 1909 by pianist Ricardo Viñes, who had introduced Ravel to Bertrand's work.
Each of the three pieces of the suite, "Ondine", "Le Gibet", and "Scarbo", presents not only an individual assortment of pianistic demands but also a unique musical language and narrative vision. In the first piece Ravel undertakes the portrayal of the water nymph Ondine's seduction of a mortal man. Shimmering C sharp major figuration soon becomes the background for a transparent melodic strand marked très doux et très expressif (very soft and expressive). The fluid background pauses only once during "Ondine" – for a brief pianissimo Très lent that precedes the final, quicksilver cadenza.
"Le Gibet" (The Gibbet) is a musical horror story of such textural density that Ravel notated nearly all of the piece on three staves. An extract from the preface of the corresponding poem provides some idea of the musical atmosphere: "It is the bell sounding from the walls of a city far away below the horizon, and the carcass of a dead man hanging from a gibbet, reddened by the setting sun". Ravel's "bells" are the slightly irregularly grouped B flats that sound continuously throughout the piece, around which the composer weaves music of total psychological suspense. The dynamic never exceeds piano, and Ravel demands that the performer play "without expression" for the last portion of the piece.
"Scarbo" is 19 pages of some of the most frightful digital difficulties ever devised. Scarbo himself is a somewhat malicious night-dwarf who comes, laughing, to horrify, and then disappears without a trace. Here Ravel places the greatest emphasis on his singular sense of rhythm; witness the perfectly placed pauses throughout. Rapid repeated notes, wild arpeggiations, and sudden shifts of texture and dynamics are among the hurdles pianists must overcome; a famous passage in parallel seconds seems to owe its existence to the composer's own peculiarly double-jointed thumb, and is therefore quite challenging for those without such a physical anomaly. After a tremendous triple-fortissimo climax, the music dissolves into impish pianissimo thirty-second notes.
Source: Blair Johnston (allmusic.com)
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
♪ Gaspard de la nuit, M.55 (1908)
ii. Le Gibet
Lucas Debargue, piano
Tippet Rise Arts Center's Olivier Barn, Fishtail, Montana, United States, August 21, 2016
There hasn't been a foreign pianist who has caused such a stir since Glenn Gould's arrival in Moscow in the midst of the Cold War, or Van Cliburn's victory at the Tchaikovsky Competition. — Olivier Bellamy, Le Huffington Post
Though placed "only" fourth at the 15th International Tchaikovsky Competition in 2015 Lucas Debargue was the only musician across all disciplines who was awarded the coveted Moscow Music Critic's Prize as a pianist "whose incredible gift, artistic vision and creative freedom have impressed the critics as well as the audience".
Straight after this incredible breakthrough Lucas Debargue is invited to play solo and with leading orchestras in the most prestigious concert halls in Russia, France, Italy, the UK, Germany, the USA, Canada, Mexico, Japan, China, South Korea and with such famous conductors as Valery Gergiev, Vladimir Fedoseev, Vladimir Jurowsky, Andrey Boreyko, Gidon Kremer, Vladimir Spivakov or Vasily Petrenko.
Lucas Debargue has already released two CDs with the label Sony Classical, the first with works by Scarlatti, Chopin, Liszt and Ravel (March 2016), the second with works by Bach, Beethoven and Medtner (September 2016).
Born in 1990, Lucas Debargue was 11 years old when he took his first piano lessons at the Compiègne Conservatory, in the class of Christine Muenier. He got quickly fascinated by the virtuoso repertoire, yet it wasn't until 10 years later, after he graduated from Paris Diderot University with a Bachelor's Art Degree, that he decided to return to studying piano at the professional level.
After a year of studies at the Beauvais Conservatory in the class of Philippe Tamborini, he was put in touch in 2011 with his current mentor, the celebrated Russian professor Rena Shereshevskaya. This encounter became decisive for Lucas: she quickly recognized in him a piano interpreter with a great future and accepted him in her class at the Alfred Cortot Paris Superior Music School to prepare him for the major international competitions. During his studies he was supported by the Cortot School, the Zaleski Foundation as well as by the Orchestre de l'Opéra de Massy (lead by Dominique Rouits) and the orchestral ensemble "Les voyages extraordinaires" (lead by Joachim Jousse). In 2014 he won the 1st prize at the 9th Gaillard International Piano Competition (France) before becoming one of the prize winners at the 15th Tchaikovsky Competition, when the world instantly took note of a startling and original new talent. In parallel with the studies at the Cortot School he obtained a Licence degree at the Paris National Superior Music Conservatory (CNSM).
A performer of fierce integrity and dazzling communicative power, Lucas Debargue draws inspiration for his playing from literature, painting, cinema, jazz and develops very personal interpretation of a carefully selected repertoire. Though the core piano repertoire is central to his career, Lucas Debargue is also keen to present works by lesser-known composers such as Nikolai Medtner, Samuel Maykapar or Nikolai Roslavets. He also composes his own music, and some of his works have already been premiered in Russia as well as in France.
In April 2016 he obtained a "Diplôme Supérieur de Concertiste" and a Special Cortot Prize at the Cortot School. At present he continues to do post-graduate work with Rena Shereshevskaya.
Source: lucas-debargue.com (2017)
Lucas Debargue – All the posts
The winners of the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition, 2015