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Lucas Debargue is hardly the first pianist to achieve fame by not winning a piano competition, but he may well be among the most significant. His performances at the 2015 Tchaikovsky Competition, where he was awarded fourth prize, are currently still available for free at www.medici.tv. This live recording (but with recording dates spread over three days, so presumably patched) offers huge rewards. Debargue’s performances of Scarlatti are perfectly shaped, and delivered with tremendous affection. He uses the pedal liberally: the C major, Kk132, is almost Ravel-like.

The programming is impeccable: Chopin’s Fourth Ballade creeps in perfectly after the D minor Scarlatti, Kk141, and proceeds to a performance of sculpted phrases, glowing tone and perfectly projected melodies. In contrast to the melting caresses of the Chopin, Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz is delivered with a crystal, but not harsh, sound and contains some gorgeous textures. If Debargue loses out to Pogorelich’s classic Gaspard de la nuit on Deutsche Grammophon in terms of colour and twilight evocation in ‘Ondine’, his ‘Le Gibet’ is magnificently judged. Unfortunately, ‘Scarbo’ is not as ecstatic as one might hope, only finding its wings towards the end. The final three pieces emerge in the manner of encores, the Grieg magnificently lachrymose, the Schubert quaint, delicate as a Fabergé egg. The Scarlatti/Debargue Variation takes us full circle, a variation – you could say a ‘deconstruction’ – of the first sonata of the programme. An astonishingly impressive debut disc.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2016 - ©Rhinegold Publishing