Pianist Lucas Debargue is a late bloomer, but his new recording has the mark of an old soul | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Pianist Lucas Debargue is a late bloomer, but his new recording has the mark of an old soul

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These days the field of classical music is crowded with prodigies whose careers seem to have been cemented before puberty, so it’s refreshing to discover that one of today’s most acclaimed younger pianists was a late bloomer. French pianist Lucas Debargue began studying music when he was 11, but his studies weren’t rigorous. By the time he was in high school he was more taken with literature than the piano, and it wasn’t until after he earned his bachelor’s degree that he pursued formal music studies. He started working with Russian mentor Rena Shereshevskaya in 2011, and four years later he caused a sensation at the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow; although he placed fourth, his rumpled appearance and incendiary performance attracted most of the attention, and a recording of that performance was later released as his debut album through Sony Music. His second album placed a relatively obscure work by Nikolai Medtner alongside pieces by Bach and Beethoven, raising interest in the Russian composer. Similarly, Debargue’s recently released third album, Schubert, Szymanowski, balances a pair of familiar Schubert sonatas—A Major (D664) and A Minor (D784)—with a much lesser-known piece, the second sonata by the Polish composer Karol Szymanowski. The pianist dispatches the Schubert pieces with gripping finesse, blending melodic clarity and rhythmic oomph, and he brings a brooding, almost blackened intensity to the thundering left-hand figures in the Szymanowski, pushing ever deeper into a despairing tone. Debargue will perform the same three pieces from the new album in his Symphony Center debut.   v

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