Philippe Entremont is one of the most popular classical music maestros in France. On January 21st, he will kick off the 2018 Piano Virtuosos at the NCPA (National Centre for the Performing Arts) with a solo piano recital.
Entremont was born into a musical family. His father was an opera conductor, and mother a pianist. He continues on with the family footsteps, and not only has he taken the piano world by storm, but has also ascended the conductor’s podium of the Vienna Chamber Orchestra and the Munich Symphony Orchestra, while cooperating with many other world famous orchestras, such as the Philadelphia and San Francisco Symphony Orchestras, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Orchestre national de France, among others. Entremont has visited China several times in recent years. During the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, he performed alongside Lang Lang and ten other internationally acclaimed pianists at the NCPA’s "A Night for Piano in China" concert.
Entremont is the representative figure of the French piano school, expertly performing Debussy, Ravel and other French composers’ works. The recital’s first half will feature Debussy’s First Book from Images and Pour le Piano, and Ravel’s Sonatine and Alborada del gracioso. Debussy and Ravel are iconic impressionist composers. As the founding father of impressionism, Debussy introduced bold innovations to the works of the 19th and 20th centuries. He broke with the major-minor key harmony system of classicism and romanticism. Unlike classical pieces, Debussy’s works dispense with philosophical themes. He derives inspiration mostly from nature, not focusing on deliberate lines of harmony, but instead seeking to create soft, nebulous tones as in a painting and the dim, flowing movements of light and shadow. Playing Debussy requires striking the keys with delicacy and precision, placing the sound’s aesthetic quality at the fore.
Ravel’s early works were influenced by Debussy and exhibit impressionist characteristics, however he follows classical tradition more closely, unlike the blurred, greyish harmony colour of Debussy. Ravel favoured dance music genres, was particularly adept at drawing from the spirit of French and Spanish folk music. His music is elegant, graceful and unique. Alborada del graciosois the fourth movement of his piano suite, Miroirs, which was inspired by a famous Spanish painting and possesses a rich, exotic sentiment. Sonatine is one of Ravel’s most well-known piano works. It is in three movements, employing mostly medieval modes and colourful harmonies, and uses different fingering techniques to indicate distant or near, intense or mild, dense or scanty and other such acoustic layers in thought-provoking ways.
The second half features Schubert’s Piano Sonata in B-flat major. Schubert is a leading figure in the early Romantic Movement. The early piano sonata not only has ardent romantic flair, but maintains classical elements. The piece is more than 40 minutes long, with both an elegant, emotive voice-like melody and the potent magnitude of the instrumental music, and must be played with a grand and unhurried air. The style of the first and second halves are polar opposites, allowing the audience to appreciate the depth of Entremont’s proficiency, as well as the diversity of piano performance art.