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From such impeccable credentials to France’s enfant terrible, a pianist who was part genius and part wild, untutored phoenix. Samson François charm was as legendary as his consumption of whisky and cigarettes. For him the nightclubs of Paris were a joyful alternative to the ardours of the practice room, making his recitals wildly unpredictable. You never knew what would happen, and neither did he. His three Royal Festival Hall concerts given during the ’60s have haunted and tugged at my imagination ever since, so it is sad that the present recital shows François at his most unfocused. Chopin’s Second Sonata is a raging sea of events, the nightmare finale exploding from the prescribed sotto voce into a fury of sound. Misreadings and accidents (it is hard to tell which) fill an incendiary ‘Feux d’artifice’ and Prokofiev’s Seventh Sonata ends in a spectacular car-crash, notes flying in every direction but the right one. It’s all devil-may-care, but François remains a godlike figure in France, where his dapper appearance, turban of hair like a silk lampshade and mischievous smile are a much missed presence.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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