Lucas Debargue

Young French pianist Lucas Debargue came fourth in the 2015 Tchaikovsky Piano Competition and this is his third solo album. Some critics suggest his backstory contributed to his success: he was originally self-taught and uses a quirky fingering for scales, using only thumb and index finger.

Debargue’s first album included his competition repertoire (Ravel and Scarlatti). Here he turns to uncommon fare: two middle-period Schubert Sonatas and Szymanowski’s Second Sonata. He spins a nice line in Schubertian cantabile in the tender Andante of the Sonata in A Minor, and shows an innate understanding of the contrast between playfulness and drama in the finale. In both sonatas he proves a reliable guide: a more volatile Schubertian than Brendel but not as revelatory as Zimerman in his recent award-winning recital.   

Szymanowski’s early sonata (1911) shows the Polish composer strongly under the influence of Scriabin in its tonality, and Rachmaninov in its full-voiced climaxes. It is a well-structured piece, with a theme and variations as the second movement and a towering fugal finale (care of Bach/Busoni). Debargue is at his best exploring the diverse colours of the episodic central movement, neatly emphasising a pre-echo of the composer’s late Mazurkas, but in the Fugue he begins at so ferocious a level he has nowhere to go in the triumphal coda except to bash the hell out of it. A disappointing conclusion to an otherwise exciting release.

Composer: Schubert, Szymanowski
Composition: Piano Sonatas
Performer: Lucas Debargue p
Catalogue Number: Sony 889854656324

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