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THE ROMANTIC PIANO CONCERTO ALBUM

HYPERION

28.09.18 

 

Music expresses that which cannot be said
and on which it is impossible to be silent.” 
- Victor Hugo

 
 
 

About

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"Poetry fused with breathtaking technical perfection" (Concertclassic) and "A master colourist with genius-like ability" (Classical Source) is how the brilliant French pianist Emmanuel Despax was described after his acclaimed recitals at the Louvre auditorium in Paris and Wigmore Hall in London. 

Despax is establishing himself as an artist whose interpretations bring a rare sincerity and imagination to the music. He performs internationally and is regularly broadcast on many radio stations including France Musique, BBC Radio 3, Classic FM and Medici TV. 

His latest Chopin preludes album on Signum Classics was recently chosen as "Album of the week" by Classic FM in the UK and received a five-star review on Diapason in France: "The young artist’s poetic work of entomology left me speechless. Rarely has the text of these 24 pieces been thus read, enhancing the least articulation or pedalling detail in relation to tempi, sound weight, projection from a prelude to the next, from a group of preludes to another, transmuting his Fazioli into a 1900s Pleyel, iridescent as needs be - intimate and very beautiful". His upcoming concerto recording with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Eugene Tzigane will be released in September 2018 on Hyperion - It features romantic concerti by two of Liszt’s students, Hans Bronsart and Anton Urspruch.

In his native France, Despax has appeared in prestigious venues such as Paris’ Salle Gaveau, Salle Cortot, the Louvre Auditorium and the Festival International des Nuits Pianistiques in Aix-en-Provence. He performs regularly across Europe and has given recitals at the Fazioli Auditorium in Italy, the Gasteig Blackbox in Munich and the Palais des Beaux Arts in Belgium.

UK highlights include recitals at Wigmore Hall, the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham, the Chipping Campden and Petworth Festivals and a performance of three piano concerti at Cadogan Hall. This concert was recorded live and released on Signum Classics. "Emmanuel Despax is a formidable talent, fleet of finger, elegant of phrase and a true keyboard colourist." (Gramophone) 

Having studied in the UK at the Yehudi Menuhin School and Royal College of Music with Ruth Nye, one of Claudio Arrau’s finest students, Despax draws inspiration from a long tradition of pure artistry and uncompromising commitment to the score. His passion lies in retaining and regaining the true role of a performer, as a faithful vessel for the composer’s message.

Now based in London, Despax has performed with many UK orchestras including the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Orpheus Sinfonia, and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. 

 
 

reviews

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"Opus 28 requires far more than intellectual or pianistic mastery of the text: who plays it embarks on a no-return journey, physically and emotionally exhausting. Best is to do so while one is young and and fearless. 
Emmanuel Despax may be proud of his 2016 record, at the start of what should be a long-lasting career ... the young artist’s poetic work of entomology left me speechless. Rarely has the text of these 24 pieces been thus read, enhancing the least articulation or pedalling detail in relation to tempi, sound weight, projection from a prelude to the next, from a group of preludes to another. 
This is all the more remarkable since this work is not about superficially highlighting these findings, but rather incorporating them into a reading with singing sonorities, fragile even at times, graceful and light rather than fuliginous, and extracted from the keyboard, as it were: it is not so much Chopin by Delacroix that we are hearing, as Chopin by Ary Scheffer. Both are right ... there is no doubt that Despax is a Chopinian and will be - if not already so - a Debussyst. 
An impeccable Berceuse drawn from the fingertip, with no pressure, as the pianist is transmuting his Fazioli into a 1900s Pleyel, iridescent as needs be. And an impressively conducted Barcarolle: beautiful yet never underlined phrasing, fleet of articulation, melting sonorities, an impeccable counterpoint in spite of generous pedalling ... intimate and very beautiful."

Diapason, France, five-star review, Signum Chopin album

 

"Emmanuel Despax is giving us a powerful version of the Preludes ... The right hand cantabile is full of panache. The pianist is not pouring out, but deep into the keyboard and maintaining a lofty character preserving the different lines. No mannerism, no dryness either. A perfect flowing touch, with clarity in the arpeggios (a superb Prelude in F sharp minor), and effectiveness too (G major, E flat minor). With such maestria, Emmanuel Despax is keeping hold over his powerful emotions. He leads us through the different hues of sound into his personal journey, across the happier moments (D major), knowing how to create suspense and catch our attention, always on the edge (B major, C minor), at times taking a risk with a tougher touch (E major, G sharp minor, B flat minor). He can also breathe and let the melody guide him (F sharp major, B flat major) ... The Barcarolle would clearly have deserved to make the opening of the record. The successive lyrical landscapes opening up more and more in a swaying motion. Emmanuel Despax is a master in suspending time and of the bold daring rides that impose themselves. Here is a recital which reveals a personality we would like to hear more often in concert."
Pianiste Magazine, France, Signum Chopin album

 

"The French pianist Emmanuel Despax is fast gathering a following and his Wigmore Hall recital displayed technical brilliance and individuality of interpretation in a wide-ranging programme.
Handel’s Chaconne made a majestic opening, its dance like Theme and twenty-one Variations containing a world of emotion within the formal constraints. Despax gave a personal account embellished with his own ornamentation. The adagio provided an effective emotional centre and led to an increasingly decorated and exciting climax.
Composed in 1904 and 1905, Ravel’s Miroirs still have the power to shock as well as thrill, especially from a pianist capable of mastering their enormous technical, interpretational and breaking-free demands. ‘Noctuelles’ is characterised by fluttering figures around a main theme, akin to an improvisation recalled Ravel’s pianist-friend Ricardo Viñes. Despax’s approach to the set was powerful yet transparent and flexible. He rose to the challenge of the vigorous Spanish rhythms of ‘Alborada del gracioso’ with grace and energy, and the sequence closed with the exquisite resonance of ‘La vallée des cloches’.
Chopin's 24 Preludes explore each major and minor key. Despax brought the same quality of introspective improvisation, as well as the required virtuosity, to them, and those of a darker, melancholy hue were the most memorable (such as II, IV, VI and XV), which sat happily with the ethereal nature to be found of Miroirs. This thought-provoking and successful juxtaposition of music was rounded by two encores, a beautiful reading of Chopin’s Berceuse and then Despax’s arrangement in Bach/Busoni style of ‘Silent Night’."
Classical Source, Wigmore Hall recital, London

 

“Poetry fused with breathtaking technical perfection. A soloist with winged virtuosi fingers. This is first and foremost a musician that we had better follow very closely.” 
Concert Classic, Louvre Auditorium, Paris  

 

"Emmanuel Despax is a formidable talent, fleet of finger, elegant of phrase and a true keyboard colourist." 
Gramophone, Signum concerto album

 

"This soloist is as comfortable with the spectacular as with the more subtle and introvert passages - all with an impeccable finish.  Beautiful playing from a captivating virtuoso.” 
Diapason, France, Signum concerto album 

 

"A master colourist with genius-like ability ... There was some truly magisterial musicianship at work here, his pacing of the long closing dissolve faultless and Liszt’s prodigal pianistic effects seeming to be lit from within. As with all the best Liszt pianists, you got the feeling that Despax was not so much playing the music as directing it, an approach that worked brilliantly in the Ballade, the clarity of his finger work and of his thoroughly prepared overview defining its wild drama with no loss of spontaneity and distinguished by full-blooded, expressive generosity." 
Classical Source, Wigmore Hall recital, London

 

"It's not just that he has a formidable technique, total control over the piano's tonal range and a flawless memory - but he has a penetrating intelligence and an easy charm when it comes to communicating with the audience.  Despax played the complete set of Chopin's Preludes: one of the great pillars of romantic piano music, containing some of the composer's most famous melodies.  Each was made to seem a miracle of concentration, whether the mood was happy, sad, energetic or relaxed.  Throughout the performance there was wonderful clarity to the playing, with each Prelude emerging as a perfectly chiselled masterpiece.  The tender sadness of No 4 and the sombre stateliness of No 20 were particularly moving; whereas the brilliance of Preludes such as Nos 16 and 19 was breathtaking, especially when speed had to be matched by an extreme delicacy of touch."
Nottingham Post, Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham

 

"It would be too easy to fall back on clichés like ‘Gallic clarity and elegance’ to describe French pianist Emmanuel Despax’s recital, but those qualities helped make this one of the most impressive contributions to the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall’s Sunday morning piano series in its five-year history. From the rippling figuration of No 3 to the wistfulness of the tiny waltz that is No 7, the most familiar of all the Preludes, to the turbulence of Nos 8 and 14, each piece was vividly characterised, as were changes of mood within pieces, such as the tenth Prelude’s shift from filigree opening to darker central section. In the introspective No 6 the evenness of Despax’s repeated notes was notable, as it was in No 15, the misleadingly nicknamed ‘Raindrop’ Prelude – misleading because it surely misses the point. Despax rightly re-focused our attention on the operatic lyricism of Chopin’s melodic writing. Prelude No 20 is that paradoxical thing, a monumental miniature, and Despax succeeded in capturing its grandeur without misjudging its scale. In the final Prelude, No 24, there is lot happening in the lower octaves, but it never sounded muddy, and the three final tolling Ds way down in the depths rang out with a kind of burnished sombre radiance." Sound and Vision, Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham

 

"Hailed as a rising star, French-born Emmanuel Despax excelled, living up to the accolades of rapturous superlatives that audiences and reviewers around the world have showered upon him. From the initial fierce descending attack by the piano in the first movement Despax breathed new life into this popular work. His flawless technique, sense of precision in working with the orchestra and his ability to project an unassuming strength of emotion created a spellbinding performance." 
THE PRESS, Schumann concerto, CSO Masterworks Series, New Zealand

 

"In Liszt's Second Ballade Despax produced passages of intense beauty, helping transcend the work before menace and tempestuous howling devour the plaintive opening. Here was an outstanding performance by a young musician of great potential" 
Musical Opinion, Cadogan Hall, London

 

VIDEO

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Chopin
Prelude Op. 28, No. 15 from the Chopin album
Recorded live for "A Fly On The Wall"


Chopin
Prelude Op. 28, No. 16 from the Chopin album
Recorded live for "A Fly On The Wall"


Liszt
Après une lecture de Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata
Recorded live for "A Fly On The Wall" 


Bach-Busoni
Chorale Prelude "Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g’mein" 
Salle Gaveau, Paris


Bach-Busoni
Chaconne in D minor
Salle Gaveau, Paris


Mussorgsky
Pictures at an Exhibition
Salle Gaveau, Paris

 

Recordings

Chopin
Signum Classics
SIGCD482

“Chopin the composer has always fascinated me – multifaceted, complex, a man of paradoxes. His music has huge scope yet at the same time is incredibly intimate and poetic. He sometimes has a reputation for being merely a writer of sentimental salon music; I wanted to correct this through this recording, and demonstrate how timeless and relevant, indeed modern his message is…” Emmanuel Despax

Pianist Emmanuel Despax performs Chopin’s timeless collection of 24 Preludes, Op. 28, alongside the Berceuse Op. 57 and Barcarolle Op. 60. Working from the latest editions as well as original facsimiles of Chopin’s scores, Despax brings his own passion for the works into performances that seek to remain as truthful to the composers’s intentions as possible on a modern instrument.


Saint-Saëns / Goss / Franck
Signum Classics
SIGCD349
Orpheus Sinfonia / Thomas Carroll

For his debut concerto album, Emmanuel Despax  recorded 3 concertos live in one concert at the Cadogan Hall in London. This concerto disc, with the Orpheus Sinfonia under Thomas Carroll, features two pillars of the romantic piano repertoire, Saint-Saëns’ ever-popular Piano Concerto No.2 and Franck’s Variations symphoniques. These works are accompanied by the premiere recording of Stephen Goss's Piano Concerto, inspired by the designs of Thomas Heatherwick.

"Emmanuel Despax is a formidable talent, fleet of finger, elegant of phrase and a true keyboard colourist." Gramophone

 

Contact

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info@emmanueldespax.com

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