FringeReview UK 2018
Adam Le Clercq’s all-Chopin piano recital began with the Fantasie-Impromptu Op 66, featured five waltzes and ended with the Scherzo No. 2 Op 31 and the powerful Ballade No. 3 Op 47.
Adam Le Clercq’s known as the organist and music director of St Michael and All Angels, but this shrouds his remarkable qualities as a soloist, not least because he also accompanies his distinguished flautist wife Nicole, appearing as the Brunswick Duo.
His pedigree as they say is impressive, but what’s so thrilling about this recitals is the effortless way Le Clercq dispatches nearly all those rhythmic instabilities that marred some recent Brighton recitals featuring Chopin. Le Clercq declares he’s in a transitional phase with the Waltzes, breaking out of safety with them, prepared to reverse the rather carefully manicured performances standard since Dinu Lipatti’s miraculous traversal in 1950. Still, there’s room for a bolder more theatrical Chopin.
Le Clercq is prepared to return to earlier period practice too. He leads with the left over right hand, something stamped on from somewhere around 1930, particularly with German and British pianists. It’s the sort of thing you heard in Josef Hofmann and earlier Chopin recordings.
What this contributes to is Le Clercq’s enormous clarity in voice-leading, the way the inner parts are terraced and utterly clear. I can’t remember when I’ve heard Chopin’s inner voices laid out in quite this way, and it surfaced particularly in the two last pieces which allowed for readings of epic scope.
Le Clercq began with the Fantasie-Impromptu Op 66, which powers its brief way like a curtain raiser and prelude to the last part of this all-Chopin piano recital. Its compressed brevity heralds its status as Chopin’s last published work- alter opus numbers wre posthumous and sometimes from far earlier. Laid out like this it seems bigger in its crunchy scope.
Le Clercq then featured five waltzes, the second and third of the Op 34 Waltzes, The first in A flat major is uncomplicated after a flurry of an intro, a summation of Chopin’s early style. There’s a shadowing of the silver that hardly lasts, a whiff of cirrus. It ends in a cascade that’s thrilling and exhilarating enough to dance to. Not true of all Chopin’s Waltzes, certainly not the next.
The second in A minor is famously melancholic, slow-moving and almost Nocturne-like. Curiously it’s known as Valse Brilliante though most could be described as this, only more appropriately. This is a reading of clarity as well as dark edges. then the solitary two/four Op 42 also in A flat, with its rippling centre and speeding up, unlike the last piece.
Then there’s the Op 64 – the first in D flat major the famous Minute Waltz handled here with effortless brio. The second in C sharp minor allows the spinning second subject to act as a release which Le Clercq negotiates with consummate skill. The rest of the work shows him thinking transitionally and trying to break out of the neatness long inhered in recent Chopin playing.
Le Clercq ended with two masterworks of enormous freight and complexity. The Scherzo No. 2 Op 31 in B flat minor (the same as his Sonata No. 2 shortly afterwards) with its brief lad and sudden emphatic two chords with its sudden glissdandi. There is a joke as the work implies, but it’s grim and passionate. There’s a a great climax that arrives twice. Particularly notable is the sweep and clarity of Le Clercq’s articulation as he quite fearlessly drives this French Elysian piano to its own consummation with a silvery tone and reserves of power not often seen on it.
The short, powerful Ballade No. 3 in A flat major Op 47 is the one that starts deceptively like a Nocturne, moves through a waltz-like refrain and slides after a reprise of the intro into a stormy Barcarolle rhythm that rocks you to nightmare. again the enormous clarity and voicings here were as apparent as the risk-taking which as in the Scherzo was triumphant. Like it, it’s a reading of distinction.
It’s not often one hears an all-Chopin recital, but here at least the pianophile crowd and everyone arriving were captivated. As the organizer put it, the piano’s completely happy this time. Le Clercq really is a recitalist to watch.