Piano gems with a French flavour



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There is a distinct focus on French music in last year's selections from the world-renowned Schloss vor Husum festival held in North Germany, highlighting works from the far-reaching peripheries of the piano repertoire.

Like the gusty North Sea air that envelopes the festival town of Husum, freshness distinguishes the performances of pieces by Gabriel Dupont, Louis Vierne, Reynaldo Hahn, Alkan and Debussy.

Faintly familiar strains come in the opening track from Debussy's early and little-known Ballade, played by young German pianist Fabian Muller. Despite being supposedly Slavic in influence, this piece, however, inhabits the aesthete of the French belle epoque.

The real discovery are two pieces from Dupont's cycle La Maison Dans Les Dunes (The House On The Dunes). Titled On The Dunes One Clear Morning and Swells, these are impressionist and hauntingly beautiful, from the fingers of German Severin von Eckardstein.

Despite his French-sounding name, Jean Louis Nicode was Prussian. Two of his miniatures, Repentance and Remembrance from A Life Of Love, bear the influences of Schumann, lovingly realised by British pianist Simon Callaghan.

Also to be heard are shorter pieces by Pancho Vladigerov, Valery Arzumanov, Leonid Desyatnikov, Robert Fuchs, Anton Arensky and Gabriel Grovlez, and transcriptions of Rachmaninov and Piazzolla.

The pianists represented are as diverse as Muza Rubackyte from Lithuania, Etsuko Hirose from Japan, Lukas Geniusas from Russia, Ingrid Marsoner from Austria, Sina Kloke from Germany and Antonio Pompa-Baldi from Italy.

As the French would say, vive la difference.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2019, with the headline 'Piano gems with a French flavour'. Print Edition | Subscribe