Julien Brocal at the Wigmore Hall on Wings of Song

Julien Brocal

at the Wigmore HallImage may contain: one or more people, people sitting and indoor

                                                                              PART 1
In 2008 I was asked by a dear friend and fellow student of Guido Agosti: Constance Channon Douglass to stand in for her on the jury of the Rina Gallo  International Piano Competition in Monza.
I do not usually accept those sort of engagements as I feel only those that can play equally as well as the contestants should be asked to judge them!
But for Connie one could never say no either!Image may contain: 5 people
Ileana Ghione,my wife with Constance Channon Douglass Marinsanti with husband Cesare .Lydia Agosti and husband Guido centre and right
I have for almost 30 years created Euromusica in Teatro Ghione in Rome that has given an average of 50 concerts a year.No photo description available.
A Wigmore Hall type venue that was so useful before the opening of the magnificent concert halls of Renzo Piano.
So many musicians from the legendary to the aspiring, from Vlado Perlemuter to Angela Hewitt and Roberto Prosseda who could find  no space in Rome.
They were never turned away from my doors  where we welcomed them all with open arms.
Nearly all are now flying high in one sense or another!Image may contain: night
Image may contain: 7 people, people smiling
My very first concert that I attended as a child in 1962 was Joaquin Achucarro in Rachmaninov second piano concerto with Charles Mackerras and in over 50 years of concert going has included most of the greatest artists both large and small.So I think I have acquired a certain taste that allows me to appreciate great talent when it presents itself.
There was in 2008 a performance of Schumann Carnaval in the competition in Monza that immediately struck me for its fantasy,colour and understanding, combined with  youthful vigour and passion.
A young frenchman by the name of Julien Brocal gave this very fine performance.
He did not pass to the final as the circus element on these occasions does not always suit the sensitivity of all the aspiring participants.
He asked me afterwards what he should do next?
How could he advance and allow his talent to mature in order to enter the profession and share his music with more people?
We discussed various avenues that he might like to explore.
And then quite a few years later I saw that he was performing  in concerts with Maria Joao Pires.Concerts that in using her great name and following she very generously shared  the platform with young artists whom she admired and who only needed experience of playing often in public. Concerts where Maria Joao shared the platform with one or at most two young artists.Alternating  their performances with hers each sitting on the platform whilst the other performed.
Discussing and enjoying making music together.
It was in Oxford a few years ago when Julien played the Mozart Double Concerto with her and the Oxford Philomusica under Marios Papadopoulos.On going backstage to congratulate Julien I thanked Madame Pires for all that she was doing to help these young artists.
She  replied quite simply :”But it is what they do for me and I should thank them!”
Another great woman Martha Argerich also similarly shares the platform with young  friends as they share music together with their doting public.
And now Julien has his first CD and has already been spotted by the Chopin Society where he was invited to play last year.
At last he has arrived at the hallowed Wigmore Hall flying high with his own wings.
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An announcement at the beginning of the Wigmore concert by a charming young lady to say that we would get more than our moneys worth as there was an addition to the programme!
The concert would now commence with a piece by Mompow…………….?!
The title in spanish was of course equally unintelligible
It had no matter- a rose is always a rose.
And they were the most beautiful multicoloured flowers of ‘The Fountain and the  Bell’ by Mompou(sic).
It was a piece that immediately took us into a special world – the world of Julien Brocal that I remember from all those years ago in Monza.
It was a magic sound world of such kaleidoscopic colours.
It opened our taste buds and it made us aware of every slight nuance of sound as Julien, crouched over the keyboard, coaxed the most wondrous sounds out of this piano.
The same piano that I had heard in the equally wonderful hands of Graham Johnson just a few hours before.
Leaning back too as he allowed his hands to caress the keys bringing out bell like sounds that belied the fact that the piano is a percussion instrument where hammers simply hit the strings.
It takes a  very special musician that can convince us otherwise.
They say miracles never strike twice but with Graham and Julien that  certainly was not the case today.
As Stephen Hough says in his new book of ‘Rough Ideas’:’The music of Federico Mompou is the music of evaporation.The printed page seems to have faded,as if the bar lines,time signatures,key signatures,and even the notes themselves have disappeared over a timeless number of years’
Musical Interlude:
Anna Huntley and Graham Johnson

at the Wigmore Hall .”Confinememt and Freedom :women abandoned and on the open road” was the title of an hour of sublime music making.

Graham playing with the lid fully opened as Anna Huntley’s sumptuously creamy rich voice floated into the hall with a communcative immediacy that ranged from the overwhelming to the most delicately whispered confessions.

As Graham has often said ‘I leave the piano lid fully open because I know how to drive.’
Infact with Graham in the driving seat Anna could allow herself all the freedom that her quite considerable artistry deserves.
An encore of Noel Coward had all the subtle innuendo and style that was at the bottom of Cathy Berberian’s fairy garden.
With both artists enjoying each others company an hour together passed all too quickly but was indeed to cherish.
Graham Johnson with Linn Rothstein – where would we all be without them?
                                                                                            PART 2
And so Julien had prepared us for the main menu…just as the great pianists of the past would improvise interludes between one work and another.Preparing the way and making sure that our ears were ready and truly thankful for what we were about to receive!
In fact it was a beautifully fluid Mozart that at times with his care not to produce percussive sounds we missed that absolute precision of which both Pires and De Larrocha were masters.One could almost say that he loves the music too much and in his attempt to shape the phrases he gave himself a little too much freedom.The music lost its sense of forward propulsion and inner rhythmic energy.
The legato of the Andante cantabile was extremely beautiful as he crouched over the keyboard to find the whispered secrets within.
The Allegretto grazioso too suffered a little from this lack of absolute, almost clockwork, precision that Schnabel  described so well as :’Too easy for children and too difficult for grown ups!’
It was in the Bach G minor English Suite that he came into his own
A rocksteady pulse allied to his great sense of characterisation.
An almost hypnotic sense of rhythm gave great architectural shape and allowed full range to his extraordinary sense of imagination and  colour.
A beautifully fluid Allemande and the rhythmic propulsion of the Courante all leading to the very heart of this Suite which is the Sarabande.
Played with such subtle colours and with great aristocratic bearing that was indeed very moving.
The Gavotte seemed a little too fast  but contrasted so well with the childlike simplicity of the whispered Musette.
I thought the Gigue could have been more carefully articulated but this was a very personal vision that was totally convincing.
It was the vision of a real artist and thinking musician.
His magnificent performance of the 24 Preludes held his audience spellbound on a journey of such variety,passion and rhythmic drive allied to moments of sublime beauty and calm.
It will live with me for a long time to come.
Fou Ts’ong describes them as 24 problems but in Julien’s hands they were 24 jewels in a crown of such radiance I doubt the Wigmore Hall has resounded with a  performance of this stature for a long time.
The very leisurely opening contrasted with the very dramatic lento where a whole world of emotion  was envisaged  in just one page.
The joy of the vivace where the melodic line floated on a wave of sound was followed by the touching simplicity of the E minor Largo.The fifth appeared out of the last chord leading into the poignant B minor Lento assai that in turn ended so delicately to prepare the scene for the innocence of the Andantino.
The passion and subtle colours of the Molto Agitato n.8 was matched by the frenzied dance of the 12th in G sharp minor.The astonishing transcendental difficulties of the 16th were played with a real Presto con fuoco where he threw himself  with great excitement into the swirling mist of notes and extracted himself with such drama after the final rising scales.
The so called ‘Raindrop’ prelude was played with such disarming simplicity as was the beautiful F sharp lento with such ravishing beauty.The A flat bell toll of the 17th had created such magic that the recitativo of the 18th came as such an astonishingly dramatic contrast.The E flat vivace of very subtle difficulty was played with a beautiful almost pastoral calm.The final chord preparing us for the great C minor prelude that has been taken as the theme by many other composers for variations.
Played with great poise and almost religious calm.
An enormous full sound never hard from the left hand octaves in the 22nd prelude  and the beautiful fluidity of the penultimate  led so well into the passionate final excitement of the final D minot Allegro Appassionato.
The final three D’s played with great dramatic effect.
A truly  memorable performance of such a well know work just demonstrated the great and original artistry of this young musician.
A sublime performance of the Andante spianato was the ideal way to thank such an attentive audience .
But as Mitsuko Uchida rightly says a great performance should live in your memory and remain with you as a joy forever.
It will certainly be that in this debut recital by Julien Brocal.
Image may contain: Julien Brocal

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