Gig review: Jonathan Fournel, Glasgow

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THIS deceptively modest lunchtime recital was young French pianist Jonathan Fournel’s first return to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland since winning the Scottish International Piano Competition there back in June 2014.

Jonathan Fournel - Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow

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And the reasons for his victory were readily apparent: a bristling technique matching fire with exquisite balance; an almost orchestral palette of tonal colours; and a brittle clarity to his playing that shone bright light on his music’s inner detail.

Most of all, though, he really had something to say. He seemed in his element among the volatile mood shifts of Scriabin’s F sharp Sonata, Op.53, yet never simply wallowed in the composer’s perfumed dreaminess – he kept things moving, and characterised each episode vividly. Likewise in Beethoven’s two-movement Sonata in F, Op.54, he dared to keep things simple – he brought a subtly different weight and sound to each of the elegant opening’s rising gestures, but it never sounded fussy. He was modest and unshowy – even in the cascading flurries of notes in Scottish composer Rory Boyle’s exhilarating 5, originally written as the competition’s test piece – and there was a warm, engaging sincerity to his playing.

He’s a major emerging talent, there’s no doubt. But despite his passion and perceptiveness, his astonishing technique occasionally got in the way of the music. In the tumultuous final movement of Prokofiev’s Seventh Sonata, for instance, Fournel seemed so concerned with crisp articulation and transparency that he diluted the determined power of the music’s relentless rhythms. Sometimes passing detail needed to yield a little more to the bigger picture.

Seen on 09.01.15