Lucas Debargue: Debut Album – Piano Works by Scarlatti, Chopin, Liszt, Ravel, Grieg, Schubert and Scarlatti/Debargue

Reviewed on Wed 01 Jun, 2016

Lucas Debargue performs nearly every indication of tempo and mood in a driven and emphatic manner. The recording also plays a significant part as it reinforces his natural tendency to the extreme.

Largely self-taught, the French pianist Lucas Debargue grabbed public and critical attention by winning fourth prize at the 2015 Tchaikovsky competition. His debut recording is taken from live performances at the Salle Cortot in November 2015. Throughout the repertoire of Scarlatti, Chopin, Liszt, Grieg, Schubert and Ravel Debargue performs nearly every indication of tempo and mood in a driven and emphatic manner. The recording also plays a significant part as it reinforces his natural tendency to the extreme; Scarlatti rarely sounds so robustly muscular. True, there are details within Debargue’s most successful performances – Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No. 1 or 'Scarbo' and 'Le Gibet' from Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit – that one does not often encounter. This indicates that Debargue clearly thinks about the music he plays. It’s simply the manner of his execution that makes it hard to stomach. Ultimately, like me, you may yearn for subtler alternatives: Rubinstein in Chopin and Liszt (RCA), Sudbin in Scarlatti (BIS), Arrau in Schubert (DG) and Samson François in Ravel (EMI/Warner).
–Evan Dickerson