August 23, 2017
Bertrand Chamayou triumphs in Elbphilharmonie debut with complete Ravel
The warm-up: a lunchtime concert for the workers at the famed Steinway factory in Hamburg. The main event: Bertrand Chamayou's sold-out debut in the north German city's already-iconic new concert hall, the Elbphilharmonie. The programme: the complete solo piano works of Maurice Ravel - more than two hours of sensual, intimate and breathtakingly virtuosic playing. The result: "a colossal and stupendous evening" (Hamburger Abendblatt), an outpouring of emotion and a richly-deserved standing ovation from the audience.
The French musician is henceforth known in Hamburg as the Langstreckenpianisten ('the long-distance pianist'), according to the Hamburger Abendblatt review:
"As the hours passed, listeners might be forgiven for feeling incessantly and easily inebriated from so much refined elegance and sensuality – it was if the piano itself was about to take flight...Such refined ease, every now and then taken skilfully to the edge of a diabetic shock, and controlled all along by Chamayou with literally playful ease.
"Of course, one could perhaps offer many of these works with a touch more bravura and in a more overtly virtuoso manner, but Chamayou does not need to rely on this kind of reproduction. In the pieces displaying smaller forms, he allows subtlety free rein, the resultant jocularity scintillating at times, and imbued with flashes of genius which granted him the pleasure of juggling informally with the musical material. Ravel’s special strength, i.e. the impressionist etherealness of his compositional ideas, was thus adamantly effective. The straightforward directness with which Chamayou communicated Pavane pour une infant défunte shed the usual veils of sadness and was treated with an almost cool ease of being. And not to forget the four major pinnacles of this repertoire, which still had to be scaled: that frighteningly difficult nightmare triptych Gaspard de la nuit, Miroirs, and the Valse nobles et sentimentales, the latter interpreted as refined Schubert epigones. And then, the final hurdle before the home stretch: the historicism of a baroque pastiche that is Le tombeau de Couperin.
"Each individual opus was effort enough. These pieces are just so technically demanding. And that Chamayou was still enough in condition for an encore, was remarkable, as he rounded of a colossal and stupendous evening."
Bertrand Chamayou's complete Ravel double-album is available here.