Pascal Rogé at Queen Elizabeth Hall

Pieces by Chopin, Debussy, Fauré, Poulenc and Ravel

Pascal Rogé (piano)

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 29 April, 2010
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall

Pascal Rogé. ©Mary RobertFor the Southbank Centre’s International Piano Series, Pascal Rogé put together a series of short pieces, requested no applause between them (not that he should have needed to ask this), and brought the whole off with conspicuous success. Not that Rogé left any gap for even the most insensitive of clappers to wreck the occasion. 13 pieces in the recital’s first half and 11 in the second made for some interesting juxtapositions – complementary, contrary, but always with thought.

Rogé opened with the deceptively easeful, and certainly melancholy, Fauré Nocturne in E flat minor (the opener from his Opus 33), the pianist displaying a lucid left-hand and a butterfly-like lightness of touch for contrasting sections, stressing the music’s volatility and always at-one with the composer’s elusive harmonies. Then came Chopin’s C minor Nocturne (from Opus 48), which needed to flow more for all Rogé’s sensitivity. And Rogé was indeed sensitive throughout his recital conjuring well-rounded warmth but never blandness from the piano, dynamics, subtlety and colour all made a part of some magical realisations of pieces linked together with certainty and imagination. Poulenc’s C major Nocturne introduced something sweet, sentimental and capricious. Three sections from Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales led naturally to a Waltz by Chopin (C sharp minor), innocent and light-footed, and then Debussy’s Mazurka was vigorous and Slavic, an example of the genre from Chopin (the B minor from Opus 33) was both public and private, displaying charm and intricacy, Rogé revealing all the strands, and then ended the first half with four studies, two each from Chopin and Debussy, rippling and expressive in the former composer and fantastical prestidigitation in the latter one; Chopin’s ‘Revolutionary’ Study brought this diverting selection to a dramatic but unforced conclusion.

The recital’s second half opened with Debussy’s Ballade (Slave), pastoral, eloquent and sweetly centred, recessing at times to a private place, an early work with many attractions if yielding to seven of his Préludes (chosen from both books) – and maybe too many in the context of the recital – which included a particularly tender ‘Girl with the Flaxen Hair’. Rogé’s playing of two of Chopin’s 24 Preludes (Opus 28) dug deep into the music’s possibilities, and the F minor Ballade (Opus 52) was altogether special, beginning quite exquisitely and building passionately.

This all seems to suggest that Rogé’s Onyx recording entitled “Poets of the Piano” should make wonderful listening for it includes many pieces heard in this recital. As an encore to wind-down the recital was one of Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie, the perfect envoi, here hypnotic.

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