Patrick Hemmerle’ at St Mary’s

Patrick Hemmerle’ at St Mary’s
If it had not been for the magnificent streaming that allowed me to have the best seat in the house at St Mary’s Perivale, transported to the National Park of Circeo in Italy ,I would have thought that we were in the realms of the Joyce Hatto scandal.

Patrick Hemmerle in my garden today transported by the magic stream carpet
Such was the superb stylistic and commanding performance of the Chopin Studies today I would have sworn it was Guiomar Novaes , Nikita Magaloff or Nelson Friere instead of a certain Monsieur Hemmerle’!
Completely bowled over by the beauty and totally absorbing musicality I was not even aware of the transcendental difficulty of these revolutionary pieces for piano.
As Hugh Mather so rightly said in his introduction, these studies were written by the twenty year old genius that was Chopin!
A recent performance of op 25 by Beatrice Rana took us all by surprise in London this season but that was only op 25 .
As Patrick rightly said in reply to the tumultuous applause that greeted the first set of 12 studies op 10:”we are only half way!”
This is what I discovered on the web site of St Mary’s about this extraordinary artist.
Patrick Hemmerlé is a French pianist based in Cambridge. He is a fellow commoner and musician in residence at Clare Hall, part of Cambridge University. His primary interest is for the music of the great Austro-German composers, mainly Bach, Beethoven, Schumann and Schubert. Patrick has developed a double concert format which allows him to put in perspective Bach’s Goldberg Variations with Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, the last three Sonatas of Schubert and Beethoven, or the 48 Preludes and Fugues of Bach. He devotes part of his time to composers who have remained relatively unknown and regularly includes in his concert programmes the works of Novak, Frank Martin, Emmanuel and many others.
Patrick has released two CDs, one for the Spanish Label Orpheus with works by Schumann, Brahms and Novak. The other for IndeSens with Novak’s Pan and Tchesnokov’s La Neige. A third CD with works by the French composer Jean Roger-Ducasse is in preparation. Patrick also gives lectures on music and also concert-lectures in which the works are discussed as well as played. He has given master classes in both England and France. He was trained in Paris, where he studied at the Conservatoire (CRR) with Billy Eidi winning first prize in 2002. He then continued his studies further, having private lessons with Nadine Wright, Joaquin Soriano, Ventislav Yankov and Eric Heidsieck.
Patrick is laureate of the International Competitions of Valencia, Toledo, Grosseto, Epinal and more recently CFRPM in Paris. He has received prizes for the best interpretation of works by Chopin, Albeniz, Beethoven ( Concerto Prize), Novak, Frank Martin and Tchesnokov.
Tuning in today rather sceptically I must say, I listened to the first study and although not the relentless passion of Richter all the hurdles,and there are many, were very well managed.
Infact it was in the second that I stopped counting the notes or at least forgot to because I was so involved in the music making that was opening up new horizons and perspectives.
The beautifully shaped left hand with the shimmering chromatic scales just adding a sheen to the proceedings.The crystal clear cantabile of the third study “How dear is my heart!”but also the beautifully singing top notes of the middle section that most amateurs are forced to leave out and that many professionals turn into a battle ground!
The fourth study had more to do with Rubinstein than with Richter’s impossibly fast video recording.Resolving all the technical challenges whilst shaping the music.The ending was every bit as exciting as Rubinstein’s inimitable performances.A slight pause before the final chord showed us the master we had in the driving seat today.
The playful “Black Key” study , Myra Hess used to play as an encore with an orange and two carrots.Childs play you might say, but today I was reminded of the aristocratic jeux perle’ of Magaloff in the way he highlighted very subtly certain harmonic comments from all directions.
I found the slow number six rather unstable rhythmically and feel it could be played more simply.
But he had such a persuasive cantabile that I almost forgave him!
The feather light alternate chords of the seventh could almost be called the butterfly study (like op 25 n.9) when played like this.
The shimmering cascading notes of the eighth beautifully phrased and ending somewhere between Horowitz’s charm and Novaes’s creamy rich legato.
A beautiful echo effect in the 9th that Rubinstein played with that aristocratic simplicity that was sometimes missing here.
A rather cheeky appogiatura at the end brought a smile of admiration for an artist who was really living the music so fearlessly.
The tenth seemed at first rather slower than we are used to hearing it.But it was so pregnant with meaning  and full of magical moments.Not least the change of colour on the modulation.The held bass note on which floats the final few bars was quite enchanting.
The “Arpeggio” study was a kaleidoscope of colours .A bass note added as Freire would often do too gave a sumptuous sense of colour to a seemingly timeless study.
A wonderful hesitation at the beginning of the “Revolutionary”study again showed just what personality this young man already has.
No fear of following the rules in his total understanding of the musical values of these remarkable pieces.
I have dwelt more on the first set of studies which I have always thought of as less poetic than the second.
Today Patrick has convinced me that they are just as poetic in the hands of a true poet!
Of course op 25 could only highlight all the wonderful things that this true musician could revel in today.
The beautiful bell like cantabile of the first study”Aeolian Harp”of which there is a detailed description by Sir Charles Halle of Chopin playing it in England.
Wonderful counter melodies in the bass that only added to the sumptuous sounds of Patrick’s magic harp.
Beautiful repeated notes at the end of the second led so well to the jogging of the third with all its various inflections.
Staccato and legato living so well together in the fourth dissolving hand in hand happily ever after at the end.
The fifth slipped in almost unnoticed.
The beautiful middle section played with the subtle inflections that Chopin actually writes into the notes.A final rising crescendo on which emerges the “will o’ the wisp” double thirds that shimmer above the left hand melodic line.
Strange that he plays the downward double third scale with two hands I have never noticed that before.Unusual fingering  too at the beginning of the slow seventh study.A telling rest in the left hand melody somehow took me by surprise.A wonderful surprise for the legato afterwards was even more telling.
A melodic line almost too flexible but by God I would not have changed a note today.
It was just so convincing and heartrending.
The silky legato of the eighth with very slight hesitations to such glorious effect.
A”Butterfly” every bit as featherweight as its partner op 10 n.7 disappearing like “scarbo” into thin air at the end.
The most thunderously legato octaves where the melodic line though was always to the fore.
A marvellously expressive middle section where the re emergence of the main theme was pure magic.
The final two studies were played with the aristocratic grandiosity of the great pianists of the past.
The added bass notes at crucial moments took our breath away as he plunged straight into the final C minor study.
What can one say?
I am tempted to use Schumann’s own words on the first appearance of Chopin in Paris:”Hats off gentlemen a genius.”
Looking at his CV and listening to his extraordinary performances today I would not be surprised at all.


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