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Review: Bavouzet at Adrian Boult Hall

This recital by French pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet was a joy to watch

Pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet

The French pianist’s recital, the prelude to a masterclass at Birmingham Conservatoire, divided neatly in two – first Beethoven and then 20th century fare.

Performances suggested that the latter is really Bavouzet’s metier.

It’s a tribute to Ravel’s brilliance that the “right” version of his Alborada del Gracioso, solo piano or orchestral, is whichever one is being heard at the time.

Bavouzet was dazzling here, the Spanish dance rhythms crisp and precise and changing instrumental colours never made at the cost of structure which, in the composer’s words, is as strict as a Bach fugue.

Une barque sur l’océan, however, sounds best on the piano and while Bavouzet’s right hand conjured up the gently lapping waves he demonstrated ample power when the sea turned choppy.

In Bartok’s sonata the organic Hungarian folk material has been shipped off to a steelworks and returns metallic, sharp and spiky.

The percussive outer allegros were given tremendous drive by Bavouzet who also revealed an angular poetry in the central slow movement.

An encore of Pierne’s virtuosic Etude de Concert, flashy but not meretricious, was despatched with tremendous élan.

Beethoven’s enigmatic sonata No.22 in F major Op.54, with its deliberately misleadingly titled “minuet” first movement, is a Jekyll and Hyde battle between the top and bottom of the keyboard – played well but with the extremes rather attenuated.

Bavouzet’s performance of the Op. 57 Appassionata while not exactly a damp squib smouldered only intermittently: and with far more fluffs than expected from a pianist of Bavouzet’s calibre.

 

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