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A Journey of Illusory Dreamscapes

Hong Kong
Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall, Central
05/19/2009 -  
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 28 in A major Op.101 – Piano Sonata No.30 in E major Op.109
Claude Debussy: Ballade – Nocturne – Tarentelle Styrienne – Images Book I – L’Isle joyeuse

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano)

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (© J. Henry Fair)

The name Jean-Efflam Bavouzet may sound unfamiliar to most Hong Kong concertgoers. But this French pianist, embracing a wide range of repertoire, has proven himself as an all-rounded musician during his twenty years of concert career. Besides performing the mainstream concert pieces such as Haydn, Beethoven and Liszt (as well as his own country’s piano music), Mr. Bavouzet is also an advocate of contemporary compositions, exploring the musicality in serialist and avant-garde works without sacrificing their steely edges.

On Tuesday night at the City Hall, he started with Franz Liszt’s Invocation from Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, which was not on the program. This miniature, rendered with full-throated sonority and melancholy intensity, served perfectly as the appetizer of the evening.

Throughout the 2008/09 season, Mr. Bavouzet has performed the complete Beethoven Sonatas in Beijing. Tonight, he chose two of the late sonatas – the Op. 101 and Op. 109. Unlike most Beethoven interpretations, which underlined the music’s solemnity and recklessness, Mr. Bavouzet was more intent on mining its poetic insight and songlike intonation on the piano. The innocent opening of E major Sonata, for instance, was rendered with flowing momentum, hazy pedaling, and crystalline articulation. The cantabile last movement, in particular, was a full display of Mr. Bavouzet’s questing mind on pianistic singing sonority.

The second half was devoted to Mr. Bavouzet’s compatriot Debussy, a composer he is natively attuned to – he just completed an award-winning recording project of Debussy’s complete works for solo piano under Chandos. In Mr. Bavouzet’s readings, every color of the spectrum and spiky rhythm was lyrically delineated. Hardly a note went by without Mr. Bavouzet bringing imaginary kaleidoscope to soothe the audience’s ears. In the three Images, he used Debussy’s rich vocabularies to sketch a three-dimensional musical landscape, from heavenly Reflets dans l'eau to light-heard Mouvement. Even in the most demanding of these, Mr. Bavouzet was eloquent without concession to difficulties. Comparing to his recordings, his performance tonight seemed more impetuous and impulsive, but, at the same time, retained his trademark lyricism and tonal transparency.

For encore, Mr. Bavouzet delivered two more Debussy’s works – Prelude Feux d'artifice with sparkling finger-works, and Etude No. 11 Pour les arpèges composés with vaporous and transparent intonation.

Danny Kim-Nam Hui



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