LW gave me her ticket to hear the young French pianist David Fray last night, telling me I was in for an Experience. She heard him playing a Bach concerto, and likened his playing to taking a lovely stroll through the park. Only the French, she insisted, could take one on such a walk. Not any American.
Pumped with excitement, I sat in Zankel Hall with AG, MC and her husband. The pianist walked in rather awkwardly, and so added charm to his glamorous good looks. Hunched over the piano, he banged out Schubert's Allegretto in C Minor and Allegretto from Klavierstücke, before attacking the German's Four Impromptus. Although there were passages of great delicacy, I felt that the pianist was not entirely at ease with the Romantic passion of the pieces. The playing was tentative, and then, as if to make-up for it, overly insistent.
A different pianist returned after the intermission to play Bach's Partita No. 6 in E minor. It was as if the "objective" quality of Bach's music relaxed Fray, and freed him from the task of being himself. As a result, he was all the more himself. He brought out beautifully the inner coherence of each dance in the suite: Allemanda, Corrente, Air, Sarabande, Tempo di Gavotte, and Gigue. He was in front of, behind, around each note he played, so confident he was of his understanding of the music. It was an authoritative performance, astonishing in a young man.
I don't usually buy the next day the music I heard the previous night. But I had to get Fray's performance of Bach's concertos, to hear for myself what LW heard. I have downloaded the tracks onto my iPad, and look forward to some blissful hours on the train or bus.