Thursday, November 15, 2012

3 PM Saturday: Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, piano

Celebrated French pianist JEAN-EFFLAM BAVOUZET makes his Spivey Hall debut this Saturday at ***3 PM*** (note time change -- originally published as 8:15 PM).  Pianophiles who also read publications such as Gramophone and BBC Music and Fanfare are likely to be familiar with his acclaimed recordings of the complete piano works of Ravel and Debussy.  I'm delighted that we'll hear Book I of Debussy's Preludes from Bavouzet as the second half of his program.  These are wonderfully evocative pieces, each creating a distinct character, highly imaginative and atmospheric in nature.

For several years I'd known of of Bavouzet's recordings before ever hearing him live.  I flew to Chicago to hear him perform the Ravel G-major Piano Concerto a few seasons ago, when he was touring with a European orchestra.  I was very taken by Bavouzet's inflections of tempo and nuance in the third movement, which were entirely natural, expressive, and in keeping with the spirit of the piece.  They took me pleasantly by surprise.  This is true artistry: revealing new meaning in a highly familiar pieceThe audience cheered.

Bavouzet is also in the midst of recording (always for Chandos) sonatas of Haydn and Beethoven -- a massive undertaking for any pianist.  We'll be hearing two Beethoven sonatas in the first half, No. 11 in B-flat major and No. 12 in A-flat major.  Both are big, four-movement sonatas.  (And I'm hoping we might have, as an encore, a lively movement from a Haydn sonata; these works retain their freshness like few others I know.)

Our program notes for this recital cite "some truly astonishing harmonies and novel pianistic figurations, especially in the Adagio movement" of No. 11.  No. 12 opens (unusually) with a theme and variations, followed by a second-movement "Funeral March on the Death of a Hero."  "Beethoven never divulged whose death is observed so solemnly in the movement," reports Wordpros (our program annotators), "which acquired a life of its own and was transcribed for every conceivable instrument and instrument combination.  In fact, an arrangement for wind band was played in Vienna's streets during Beethoven's own funeral procession."  I wonder if Beethoven, in any of his darkest moments, could ever have imagined this.  (In some future post, I will outline plans for my own "good-bye to this Earthly existence" music...certainly none of which I will have written, and none of which will involve any live performance.  I have a core list of pieces and recordings that has evolved a bit over the years, though two central pieces have endured. But I digress.)

At this recital, we'll have another opportunity to become even more familiar with "Clara," Spivey Hall's gorgeous new Hamburg Steinway.  She has risen splendidly to every occasion thus far, and yet she sounds a bit different for every pianist (it's all in the touch, of course).  Her beauties to behold, once again!

The great thing about a 3 PM recital is that no one has to worry about driving at night, and you have your evening free, say, for hearing the "Emperor" Concerto up the road a bit later on, if you're truly in need of a two-concert day.  Georgia educators with ID receive 50% off tickets at Spivey Hall, as do students with ID.  Just $10 for Clayton State students.

This is excellent music, start to finish, in the hands of a renowned and engaging artistSpend an afternoon with Bavouzet, Beethoven and Debussy at Spivey Hall, and your weekend (and your spirits) will definitely be the better for it.



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