Chopin: Études, Op. 10 (no 1-12)
Chopin: Trois nouvelles études, Opus posth. (No 1-3)
Chopin: Études, Op. 25
WPAS has been well-known over the years for, among other things, its wonderful Haynes piano series presenting every year la crème de la crème among contemporary pianists. Today was no exception, and I've just come back from spending two absolutely glorious hours listening to much-praised French Canadian pianist Louis Lortis play an all-Chopin program at the Kennedy Center. This naturellement couldn't fail to tackle my French national pride (Never mind that Chopin was originally Polish), and my friend Pat and I were only too happy to have our afternoon dedicated to some Gallic musical enlightenment.
Written by Chopin as training tools, each one of these short exercises deals with a particular technical difficulty of piano playing, but they are also remarkably brilliant compositions, and as much a total delight for the audience as a daunting challenge for the musician. The first set was dedicated to that other incredibly talented and almost coetanous pianist, Franz Liszt, and the second set to Liszt's mistress, the Countess Marie d'Agoult, for good measure.
The good news is one does not need to have the slightest familiarity with piano techniques to fully enjoy them, and today Louis Lortie never let his spectacular virtuoso tours de force dazzle the unsuspected audience to the point where they would not be able to dwell into the simple hedonistic pleasure of just letting the music wash over them. As soon as he sat down, the enchanting cascades of notes of No 1 in C Major came unfurling like fresh water, and it was just the beginning of an extraordinary performance. In turn strikingly energetic or quietly lyrical, he used his stunning dexterity to make it all sound natural and effortless, and we were all blissfully happy to kick back and take it all in.
As if these 27 Chopin études were not enough, the much applauded pianist did not hesitate to come back with two meatier compositions by... Chopin, and eventually wrapped up this no doubt exhausting but oh so exhilarating marathon as rapturously as it had started.