Patrick Hemmerlé takes St Mary’s by storm

Tuesday 9 February 4.00 pm 

Patrick Hemmerlé (piano)

Vierne: Nocturne Op 34 no 3
Liszt: Les jeux d ‘ eaux à la Villa d ‘Este
Ravel: Gaspard de la Nuit
(Ondine / Le Gibet / Scarbo)
Granados: Goyesca no 7 ‘El Pelele’
Villa Lobos: Rudepoema

Another truly amazing recital from Patrick Hemmerlé who every time he plays demonstrates such mastery and undemonstrative musicianship that his tour de force almost goes unnoticed such is his gift of communicating the very essence of the music.I well remember being astounded a year ago by his performance of the 24 studies by Chopin.Today he took on Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit that had been written with the desire to outbid Balakirev’s notoriously difficult Islamey.This was only a magnificent warm up for the savagery and outrageous demands that Villa Lobos made on his friend Artur Rubinstein with his Rudepoema.
Wonderful luminous sounds opened the programme with Vierne’s Nocturne only to be interrupted by the playful splashing of the fountains of the Villa d’Este.After a sumptuously atmospheric and exciting Gaspard a quick click of the heels with El Pelele before the absolute savagery of Rudepoema.
Astonishing mastery at the complete service of music leaves me once again speechless with admiration.

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Beautiful crystal clear cantabile opened the recital with the last of Louis Vierne’s three nocturnes for piano.”La lumière rayonnait des astres de la nuit, le rossignol chantait… »is placed above the music .Some very atmospheric playing full of fascinating colours with a very refined sense of balance.A passionate climax with cascades of notes that showed the influence of Fauré that Patrick had pointed out in his introduction .The magical return to the main idea bathed in sumptuous sounds that Patrick also likened to Delius.Even the unusual construction in episodes or ideas that return Patrick likened to the same sort of construction as in some works of Michael Tippett,which is food for thought indeed from this remarkably informed thinking musician.

Louis Vierne was the organist of Notre-Dame de Paris from 1900 until his death during a recital there ,in 1937, on the very organ that he helped to raise funds to restore touring Europe and the United States as a concert organist. His students included Nadia Boulanger.He wrote mostly for the organ and very little for the piano but in the 1914 World War, his son Jacques, still a minor, enlisted in the army.Vierne who was partially blind at birth was away in Switzerland in 1916 for glaucoma treatment, expecting to be away for four months but ,due to complications, he returned only four years later.In May 1917, Jacques was transferred to the 44th Field Regiment as a driver and committed suicide on 12 November 1917 in Prosne in the Marne. Vierne composed the Piano Quintet, Op. 42, in commemoration. His brother René died at the front too on 29 May 1918, remembered in Solitude, a poem for piano.The three nocturnes op 34 for piano received their first performance in Lausanne in 1916.

The Liszt entered on the same wave that had been created with Vierne and the delicacy of the drops of water at the Villa d’Este were played with almost chiselled clarity.From the third book of Années de pèlerinage over the music, Liszt placed the inscription, “Sed aqua quam ego dabo ei, fiet in eo fons aquae salientis in vitam aeternam” (“But the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up into eternal life,” from the Gospel of John) One of Liszt’s most poetic descriptions of water as is the piece from the first year ‘Au bord d’une source’ where Liszt quotes Schiller:’In the whispering coolness begins young nature’s play.’Some playing of sumptuous beauty with a single drop of water passing from top to bottom on the piano leading to a tumultuous build up played with passionate involvement until bursting into octaves and cascades of notes before dying away so magically and allowing the water nymph Ondine to enter the scene in Ravel’s Gaspard.

The three well known poems by Aloysius Bertrand opens with Ondine ,the water nymph,singing to seduce the observer into visiting her kingdom deep at the bottom of a lake with the sounds of water falling and flowing, woven with cascades.The melodic line was so clearly etched with such atmospheric washes of sound building to the climax and the overwhelming cascades of notes that die away to a murmur where Patrick caressed the notes so tenderly as Ondine disappeared from where she had come.There was a wonderful insistence of the tolling bell in Le Gibet with a bleakness that created an atmosphere with sultry sounds that almost evoke the dissonances of Messiaen in many ways.The observer is presented with a view of the desert, where the lone corpse of a hanged man on a gobbet stands out against the horizon, reddened by the setting sun. Meanwhile, a bell tolls from inside the walls of a far-off city, creating the deathly atmosphere that surrounds the observer. All so beautifully depicted in sound with Patrick’s command of colour via his masterly use of the pedals.There was such a sinister opening to Scarbo with the repeated notes just a vibration of sound.It was played with a relentless driving rhythm fearlessly allowing the movement to evolve with such passionate virtuosity.It exactly depicts the nighttime mischief of a small fiend , flitting in and out of the darkness, disappearing and suddenly reappearing. Its uneven flight, hitting and scratching against the walls, casting a growing shadow in the moonlight, creates a nightmarish scene for the observer lying in his bed.

After such a monumental performance it was a good idea for Patrick to completely change the mood with as he said a lighthearted and delightful piece from the suite Goyescas by Granados.A suite of seven pieces written in 1911 inspired by the works of Goya.El pelele (The Straw Man), subtitled Escena goyesca, is usually programmed as part of the suite although written after.It was played with refreshing sense of Spanish gaiety, lightness and colour with driving dance rhythms and some transcendental octave playing in the left hand of a feathery lightness ending with such a joyous clicking of heels

All ready for Rudepoema by Villa Lobos with its amazing sounds and vitality of such astonishing virtuosity .As Patrick said it is the Brazilian Rite of Spring with a succession of dances extreme and excessive as Villa Lobos tried to draw the portrait in music of his friend and great admirer Artur Rubinstein.An amazing collection of sounds and notes with long held pedals just adding to the atmosphere until Patrick’s fist was plunged into the final note with such terrifying vehemence that brought the baccanale to a fatal end indeed – I expect the piano might need some careful attention after this piece!A savage poem indeed.When Rubinstein asked Villa Lobos in 1926 if he considered him a savage pianist, he said excitedly, ‘We are both savage! We don’t care much for pedantic detail. I compose and you play, off the heart, making the music live, and this is what I hope I expressed in this work'” It was Patrick’s breathtaking performance that showed us just why this magnificent work is not heard more often in concert – It’s phenomenal difficulties are indeed for a chosen few.

Acclaimed for the originality of his concert programmes and the depth of his interpretations, Patrick Hemmerlé is a French pianist living in England. He can often be heard performing such works as the 24 Chopin Etudes, the 48 Bach Prelude and Fugues, or lesser-known composers. Recent engagements have taken him to New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, Paris, Vienna, and Prague, as well as many festivals and music society in England. Patrick has published 3 CDs, which have been well received by the international press. His latest recording project, to be issued in 2020 is a pairing of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier and Fischer’s Ariadne Musica. He is in demand as a lecturer. He has given talks for the Cambridge University, as well as a cycle of concert-lectures on French music, presenting composers little known to the general public,. This led to the recordings of the piano music of Jean Roger-Ducasse and Maurice Emmanuel. Patrick is laureate of the international competition of Valencia, Toledo, Epinal, Grossetto, and more recently the CFRPM, in Paris, where his interpretation of Villa-Lobos’s Rudepoema, raised a great deal of interest. He was trained in Paris at the Conservatoire (CNR), under the tuition of Billy Eidi.

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