Perhaps the most engaging aspect of French pianist Pascal Rogé’s interpretations of his native music is the tonal he delivers without losing any of the musky fluidity of Debussy, the incision of Ravel, the eccentric twists of Satie, or the skittish satire of Poulenc.
All these composers featured in his Music at Paxton recital last night, a frothy French cocktail filled with all manner of flavours, scents and textures. And it was that intoxicatingly intimate quality, together with an innate appreciation of the shifting historical shades, that proved the vital communicating factor in Rogé’s liquid sequence of performances.
Rogé insists on delivering the music without the interruption of applause between works. His programmes are a neatly formed narrative, a work of art in itself.
It opened with the contrasting moods of Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque – the affirmative Prelude, the timeless luminescence of Claire de lune, which Rogé imbued with a fearless passion. That morphed like an Impressionist wash into Ravel’s Sonatine, with its harmonies to die for and a performance characterised by rhapsodic surges.
Satie’s Gnossiennes Nos 3 & 5, throwaway delights; Debussy’s 2 Arabesques, luminously unsentimentalised; and then Rogé found in Debussy’s 2nd book of Images a lavish, autumnal warmth.
And mixed within all that the tart presence of Poulenc – the wonderful Les Soirées de Nazelles offering a dash of tabasco to the close of the recital’s first half; the characterful exuberance of the Improvisations; and the hard-edged Toccata, a frenetically-charged finale to a programme that was utterly compelling from start to finish.