Louis-Victor Bak at St James’s Piccadilly

Some very musicianly playing from this young French pianist that I was able to listen to thanks again to the very fine streaming from St James’s Piccadilly.Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in F sharp book 1 was played with such flowing mellifluous sounds of an almost pastoral nature.Delicate ornamentation just added to the beauty and overall shape.The same atmosphere carried over into the three part fugue that was played with a clarity but also a sense of continuous flowing movement where even the entry of the voices did not disturb the gentle nature of this beautiful fugue.

It was the same atmosphere that he brought to the Sonata op 90 by Beethoven but of course interrupted by Beethoven’s rumbustuous character in the first movement.Great contrasts and scrupulous attention to detail but even here there was a sense of of overall architectural shape and forward movement.This the most Schubertian of Beethoven’s sonatas where the last movement is a continuous outpouring of melodic invention that Louis- Victor Bak played with great sensitivity never allowing the rhythmic pulse to vary. The melodic line always allowed to breathe though in such a refreshing natural way.I am not sure I would have changed the tempo just before the final return of the main theme but it led to a coda of disarming simplicity and beauty.

Thierry Escaich is a composer organist and improviser born in 1965 and is a unique figure in contemporary music and one of the most important French composers of his generation. The three elements of Escaich’s artistry are inseparable, allowing him to express himself as a performer, creator and collaborator in a wide range of settings.Jeux de doubles was written in 2001 and is a virtuoso piece in various episodes from the magical sounds and long held pedals of the opening to the ostinato bass over which toccata like chords are played with great virtuosity over the entire keyboard leading to ever more exciting and exacting figurations.It was a piece that showed off all the extraordinary facets of this young pianists technical and musical mastery.

The three pieces that make up Debussy’s first book of Images were played with a kaleidoscopic sense of colour but also great romantic fervour in Reflets dans l’eau dissolving into a mere murmur of such magical sounds.Hommage à Rameau was played in an almost improvised way such was the freedom and magic that he managed to convey in this most aristocratic of the six images.Movements was played with startling changes of colour in which the continual forward movement was never interrupted but sumptuous colours appeared like magic out of the mist that he had created with great technical skill of precision and delicacy.The ending was just allowed to diminish to a mere distant cloud but never for one moment disturbing the continual urgency and all embracing mist that he had created.

Liszt’s transcendental study in F minor was played with great sensitivity and passion.One of the most subtle of the 12 Transcendental studies for its gentle opening working itself up into passionate outbursts of romantic fervour.A coda of such excitement too was played with great technical assurance and like all the works he played a musical intelligence and sensitivity allied to a technical command that brought everything he played vividly to life.

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