Pianist Jean–Efflam Bavouzet performs the title Debussy concert, which celebrates the composer’s 150th birthday, at this year’s Music Festival. Jean-Efflam embodies suave charm as only a certain type of Frenchman can. Anyone that heard his Debussy piano recital at last year’s Cheltenham Music Festival knows what a captivating performer Jean-Efflam is as he frequently steps away from the piano to speak to the audience, explaining what he is about to play and putting the work in context for the listener.
This adds colour and a framework to the concert for piano novices and old hands alike. It is evident to all who listen that Debussy is Jean-Efflam’s great passion. Here he explains his favourite Debussy works:
Neither of the pieces by Debussy that inspire me most are for piano,” hes aid.“The first is Pelléas et Mélisande because it was the no return point. About 15 years ago I was touring in Asia, I listened to the marvellous recording by Herbert von Karajan in my hotel room and I began to cry. For several years I could not hear a note by Debussy without being moved to tears. Shortly after I wrote a piano version of Jeux – probably the ultimate in his orchestral and harmonic writing dash, which was another turning point for me. A chance to be immersed in the piece’s architecture, to plunge into the score.
For 2012, Jean-Efflam is performing a special concert that comes complete with coffee and croissants. The Essential Debussy is on Friday 6 July at 10am. The programme includes Images book 1, Préludes book 1 (selection), Préludes book 2, Estampes, Clair de Lune, Ile joyeuse and Etudes.
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet was speaking to BBC Music magazine