French pianist Lucas Debargue returns for Jan. 19 recital

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French pianist Lucas Debargue did not win first prize at the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow – he placed fourth – yet his huge talent and originality created quite the buzz among critics and producers alike, providing a springboard for his budding international career.

He won the Moscow Music Critics Award in that competition for what was termed his “incredible gift, artistic vision, and creative freedom.” A rhapsodic review in the Huffington Post said at the time: “Since Glen Gould’s visit to Moscow (in 1957) and Van Cliburn’s victory at the Tchaikovsky Competition (in 1958) in the heat of the Cold War, never has a foreign pianist provided such frenzy.” Part of the fascination with Debargue is the fact that he started playing piano at the relatively “old” age of 11, then gave it up at 15 to join a rock band and focus on non-musical studies in arts and literature. When he was 20, Debargue’s talent was noticed by Russian music professor Rena Shereshekskaya who invited him to join her class for formal training at the prestigious École Normale de Musique de Paris Alfred Cortot.

He is said to reflect in his playing ideas from literature, cinema, painting, and jazz. While he focuses on core repertoire, he also presents lesser known works by 20th century Russian composers Nikolai Medtner, Samuel Maykapar, and Nikolai Roslavets.

Following his debut here in Dec. 2017, a Le Devoir reviewer hailed his musicianship as “a genuine phenomenon in a classical world that truly needs one.”

For his second Montreal show, Debargue will open with nine miniature sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti, then leap to the 20th century with Medtner’s Sonata in G Minor, back to Baroque with Bach’s Toccata in C minor (a Gould favourite), and ending with Franz Liszt’s Dante Sonata.

Debargue performs Sunday, Jan. 19 at 2:30 pm at the Maison Symphonique of Place des Arts. $46 to $105. Info and tickets: placedesarts.com/en/event/lucas-debargue or call 514-842-2112.

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