Lucas Debargue (born 1990 in Paris) wowed critics and audience during the International Tchaikovsky Competition that was held in Moscow in 2015; the Jury was perhaps less impressed, awarding Debargue Fourth Prize.
Word-of-mouth opinions concerning Debargue have been positive, also, and he opens this live recital (if recorded over three occasions) with four Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti. Maybe the opening one (Kk208), however gently touched, is just a little foursquare in phrasing, but there is plenty of brilliance in terms of character and technique in Kk24, as well as slower contrasts, and the ‘song’ element of Scarlatti’s multifarious expression is to the fore in Kk132; this quartet of Sonatas peaks with the wizardry of Kk141, played with relish by Debargue.
The opening of the Chopin is beautifully tender, the succeeding lines poetic, given with an attractive extemporisation, and Debargue goes on to increment impressively the music’s power and passion, and his clinical fingers come into their own in the coruscating coda. Following which Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz is curiously sedate initially and over-analysed, not helped by a tempo too moderate on its own terms, and anyway the opening marking is Allegro vivace (quasi Presto); the music needs greater speed and swagger, which Debargue does increase to, ultimately leaving a transcendental impression via suspenseful slower sections.
The big piece is Gaspard de la nuit. Its wonderfully played, although some even quieter dynamics in ‘Ondine’ (with a very long-held conclusion) would have been welcome; and if the account overall is rather abstract – that is, one is less aware of the music’s pictorial musing (after poems by Aloysius Bertrand) –, then Ravel’s invention, as such, holds the listener enthralled, although ‘Le Gibet’ is not as mysteriously hypnotic as it can be despite a spacious tempo, and Debargue has a tendency to be too loud on occasions, which may be due to the recorded sound, itself a little inconsistent, maybe because takes from different days have been compiled into the disc we have. ‘Scarbo’ comes off best of all – devilish, dangerous, thunderous, enthralling (but don’t miss Jacqueline Eymar playing this masterpiece).
Following applause (which has not been heard until Gaspard finishes, and it proves somewhat disruptive to the enigmatic ending), there follow three wind-down encores, some dreamy Grieg, light-footed Schubert, and Debargue’s own Variation (subtle enough to be very similar, save for no repeats this time) on the Scarlatti Sonata that started the recital, its balm thankfully allowed to be greeted by silence... I think Debargue can be counted as an explorer.