Great Performers: Louis Lortie

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Published: 28th April, 2015

The Melbourne Recital Centre’s Great Performers series this year is heavily weighted towards pianists and Classic Melbourne was interested in having a reviewer who had a professional knowledge of the featured works. So we’re happy to introduce Hoang Pham, himself a pianist of repute, with the first of his impressions of the series. Here are his comments after attending the Louis Lortie Piano Recital at the Melbourne Recital Centre on April 14, 2015 …

Louis Lortie offered a program of Preludes by Faure, Scriabin and Chopin to a large and enthusiastic audience on Tuesday evening in the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall. It was a mountain to climb and getting to the end of this massive offering was admirable enough, with plenty of dramatic and poetic moments to savour throughout the total of 57 Romantic miniatures performed.

The Nine Preludes by Faure were given a solid reading. These miniatures with their reflective qualities, floating tonality, mysterious murmurs and melodic lines set a rather dark tone to begin the concert with. Faure’s late style leaves more questions unanswered than answered and the mood at the end was only lightened by the radiant contrast of the Scriabin Preludes. These were played with characteristic sweep and virtuosity but one was left wanting more in the slower and more reflective numbers.

The main course for the evening was the 24 Preludes of Chopin. Lortie delivered a performance here that was once again full of sweep and virtuosity but lacked singing line and poetry in the lyrical numbers. Each of these Preludes has a particular gesture that becomes the illuminating factor and in the famous Raindrop Prelude, the gradation of the repeated notes and their transformation throughout could have been given more considered an approach in order to bind the prelude together as a dramatic whole.

Lortie’s playing was solid in the agitated No 8 and he brought tension and drama into the famous No 4 with its subtle sliding chromatics in the left hand chords. But too often, for example in Nos. 6, 13, 17 and 21, Chopin’s melodic lines needed a more varied approach that would allow the composers music to speak and sing. Still, the impressionistic sheen of No 23, the madcap virtuosity of No 16 and the grand gestures of No 24 were impressive enough and drew an appreciative response from the audience.

Editor’s note: Hoang Pham’s next review will be of the pianist Pavaali Jumppanen on May 21 at the Recital Centre.