Antoine Préat Aristocratic artistry at St Mary’s

Tuesday 16 March 4.0 pm 

Antoine Préat (piano)

https://youtu.be/xP-xRUVPf5A. Video recording of the recital at St Mary’s


Mozart: Sonata in D major K284

I. Allegro. II. Rondeau en polonaise. III. Tema con variazione

Schumann Fantasiestücke op 12 Des Abends,Aufschwung ,Warum? Grillen, In der Nacht ,Fabel,Traumes Wirren,Ende vom Lied

Ravel: Toccata from ‘Le Tombeau de Couperin’

Ravishing delicacy from the young Franco -Belgian Antoine Préat.Such refined phrasing in the Mozart Sonata and fingers that seemed to glide over the keys so naturally seminating infinite jewels in this extraordinarily beautiful early sonata.A final movement that could have been an operatic scene such was the character he gave to each of the variations.If the Schumann lacked weight and projection it was because he was more in sympathy with Eusebius and his magical world than the rumbustuous Floristan .
But it was in the toccata by Ravel that his aristocratic artistry and technical perfection allowed him to give an unforgettable performance where one’s breath was taken away by his subtle musicianship and total control .The fact that it is one of the most treacherous works for a pianist and often a set work for international competitions just did not come into the equation.Yesterday I saw a video of my old teacher Vlado Perlemuter play it but today I saw and heard what I imagine the young Perlemuter would have done at Antoine’s age.Hats off indeed especially as it closed the 100th lockdown concert at St Mary’s.

https://youtu.be/IbX6NFTyjZw. Vlado Perlemuter Ravel Toccata

The Sonata in D major is the last of the Six Sonatas K. 279–284 that Mozart had in his luggage when he set off for Paris in September 1777. He had already successfully performed this music in Munich, Augsburg and Mannheim, a fact he proudly told his father back at home. He gave the works particularly rich dynamic markings and also found unusual solutions concerning their formal aspect, for instance having a slow Rondeau en Polonaise as the middle movement of the Sonata in D major.

The first movement Allegro had a refreshing energy to it with a fluidity and sense of balance and delicacy but with an almost orchestral feeling of colour.The bass octaves played so discreetly as would a string orchestra and there was just the right difference between ‘piano’ and ‘forte’ that only a true artist could judge.The beautifully shaped question and answer between the hands in the development unwound so naturally as it led back to the opening rhythm .Ornaments that glittered like jewels just enhanced the joie de vivre of this beautiful early sonata.The Rondeau en Polonaise Andante was played with an innocent simplicity but with such minute attention to detail and colour.Even the subtle shaping of the ‘Alberti’ bass ,nothing was overlooked in Antoine’s hands as he caressed Mozart’s startlingly original melodic line with such loving care.There was even question and answer within the phrase and his final pianissimo comment was answered by robust left hand octaves before the return of the main theme gently embellished .The bass octaves answered so gently by the delicate dotted rhythm of the treble before the playful delicacy of the ending and the final echoing comment that was pure magic.Charm and grace characterised the opening theme of the last movement and was followed by the gentle fluidity of the first variation and the playful second with its mischievous comments.The energetic third and fourth with such playful joy and the charm of the fifth with its repeated notes so delicately played.There was a hesitant question and answer between the hands of the sixth before the calm of the seventh leading to the virtuosistic eighth and ninth with its syncopated octaves.The almost pastoral calm of the tenth prepared us for the sublime surprise of the eleventh.Adagio cantabile was played with ravishing beauty of tone and heartfelt sentiment ,maybe a little slow ,but it was indeed operatic in its beauty and depth of feeling.The allegro final variation brought the sonata to an energetic ending.

Schumann composed the eight pieces of the Fantasiestucke with the characters Florestan and Eusebius in mind, representing the duality of his personality. Eusebius depicts the dreamer in Schumann while Florestan represents his passionate side.Antoine tended to feel more at home with the more delicate pieces where the melodic line of Des Abends (In the evening) floated on a magic carpet of sounds and the gentle questioning of Warum (Why?)or the placid narrative of Fabel .The sound though was a little too delicate to project and really give depth and an overall sense of line .Floristan in great contrast burst in with the second piece Aufschwung (Soaring) with a sweeping passionate line and there was great contrast with Grillen(Whims) with its whimsical, quirky nature.There was great agitation too in In der Nacht ( In the night)where Schumann unites Eusebius with Floristan with ‘passion together with nocturnal calm.’Great agitation with some beautiful colours whilst the relentless movement continued.A beautiful change of colour in the ‘Etwas Langsamer’ on which the beautifully shaped melody was allowed to float.Traumes Wirren ( Dreams confusions) is the struggle between the dreams and the passions within Schumann. The dreamy quality of Schumann, represented by the character of Eusebius, becomes entangled by the passions of Florestan, who symbolizes Schumann’s more emotional side.Played with great agility and sense of enjoyment with beautiful legato chords in the central section before gradually gathering pace again to the final chords thrown off with such charm and ease.The grandiose opening of Ende vom Lied (End of the song) Schumann described as a combination of wedding bells and funeral bells. Writing to his future wife ,Clara : “At the time, I thought: well in the end it all resolves itself into a jolly wedding. But at the close, my painful anxiety about you returned.”The playful good humour leading to a coda and the gentle disintegration of the work as it finishes in a whisper.Some beautiful playing but missing the nobility of sound and an overall sense of line that could in the hands of Artur Rubinstein cast a spell from the first to the last note.

The Toccata from Le tombeau de Couperin was given a superb performance with its relentless continual motion but in Antoine’s hands shaped with such delicacy and precision.The sudden burst of melody over the driving rhythms had a very aristocratic French feel to it as at ‘un peu moins vif’ or where the bell like melody just seems to float on an etherial cloud of sound .There was always a great sense of control as the momentum reached fever pitch exploding in the triumphant melodic line in which Antoine’s sense of balance never lost sight of the great architectural shape as it moved to the inexorable burst of energy to the final chords .

Franco-Belgian pianist Antoine Préat was born in August 1997 in Paris. Described by the French radio as “one of the most gifted pianists of the youngest generation”, and as “a young artist with a distinctive voice”, Antoine is in demand both as a chamber musician and a soloist.Antoine made his orchestral debut at 17, playing Rachmaninov’s second concerto under the baton of Mihnea Ignat, and has since performed with orchestras such as Orchestra of Alicante, the Tonerl Chamber Orchestra, the Sainsbury Soloists, the Academy Festival Orchestra, the London Student Orchestra, the Resonate Chamber Ensemble. Antoine is regularly invited to perform in France as well as in Europe and the United States in halls such as the Salle Cortot, Salle Gaveau, Wigmore Hall, Thayer Hall, Paris Beaux Arts Museum, Frederyk Chopin Institute. His performances have been broadcast on the BBC and France Musique. Performance highlights include festivals such as the Nohant Chopin Festival, Lisztomanias, Chopin à Bagatelle, les Concerts d’Esther, Marathon Chopin (for his bicentenary), les Nuits du piano in Paris, and Jeunes talents. Antoine is an avid chamber musician, and dedicates himself to his piano duo, Duo Martelli, currently studying under Amandine Savary’s tutelage at the Royal Academy of Music. He was the youngest artist to be invited to join the Centre de Musique de Chambre de Paris, (directed by Jerome Pernoo) with whom he gave a series of concert at the Salle Cortot in Paris, sponsored by Deutsche Gramophone.He has been a finalist/prizewinner in numerous national and international competitions such as the Ettlingen competition for young pianists, the Concours International de la Ville de Gagny, the Concours international d’Ile de France, received an honor prize at the New York Début Piano Competition, and more. NAntoine began his studies at the Junior Paris Conservatoire (CRR de Paris). One year later, he made his public debut at the Salle Gaveau. In 2011, he was invited to continue his studies at the Ecole Normale de Musique A. Cortot, from which he graduated with a distinction at the age of 17. He then continued his studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London, under the tutelage of Tatiana Sarkissova, where he received the Colin Murray Award (2016) and Vivian Langrish Award (2018) for highest mark in an examination as well as the Bache Fund Award for special achievement (2019). Antoine is currently enrolled as Master of Arts student at the Academy under Christopher Elton’s tutelage. He is very fortunate to be supported by Talent Unlimited as well as the Munster Derek Butler Award and the Winifred Christie Trust Award.

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