Live at LICA
Thursday, 24 October 2013
in the Great Hall, Lancaster University.
Reviewed by Sally Ryde
From the outset, we knew Monsieur Rogé’s concert was going to be different. The lights over the stage dimmed noticeably and before playing a single note, the artiste turned to the audience to speak.
He asked us for a favour. Would we please restrain our enthusiasm until the end - that is, not to applaud between pieces. The evening would be a “cultural musical” journey. And if we didn’t like the lighting, we should not complain to the university but instead see M. Rogé himself afterwards.
With that, Pascal Rogé launched into a programme consisting wholly of late 19th century and early 20th century French piano music. (The young couple from Huddersfield who had picked up on the Live at LICA event through Groupon were delighted. French was her degree course and piano was her passion.)
Fortunately for me, and others who were not so well-versed in the French keyboard repertoire, there was enough familiar Debussy to keep us going through the uncharted spaces of Poulenc and Ravel. It was certainly a “cultural musical” exploration - particularly the Poulenc, about whose piano music I knew very little. We were helped in navigating through the foreign territory to some extent by M. Rogé’s body language. He would signal the beginning of a new piece by adjusting his posture slightly. We knew then to turn the pages of our printed programmes.
A programme filled with popular favourites it surely was not but the recital began with Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque, the third movement of which is possibly one of the best known and best loved pieces ever composed for piano. When the iconic opening chords of ‘Clair de lune’ wafted through the Great Hall, any residual audience noises quickly died to an absolute silence. It was the kind of atmosphere that is frankly disturbing because of the deeply sickening feeling that even the quietest mobile telephone sound could spoil its perfection at any moment. No ring tone this time, but I wish I could report that the wonderfully overwhelming silence had been maintained throughout the movement...
I would not have been surprised to have observed more empty seats after the interval but only because of the specialist nature of the programme. Clearly though, 99% of the audience had come to enjoy the extraordinary “cultural musical” experience offered by M. Rogé at the start. As a lady on the front row said, it was as though we had all been invited into his personal music room and been allowed to overhear his own private music making.
If anything, the amount of restrained enthusiasm that built up was even greater in the second half. During the closing curtain call, there were some shouts of praise from those who fully understood just how deeply into the Romantic French catalogue they had been escorted by this unusual performer. Those who later checked out Pascal Rogé on the internet, as I did, will have been fascinated by his life choices, both past and present.
As a sop to those who had hoped for a few evergreens that often appear in piano concerts everywhere and who were left feeling baffled by two hours of new and unfamiliar keyboard material, as an encore M. Rogé finished the evening with a Classic FM favourite: Erik Satie’s well-known Gymnopédie No. 1.
So what happened during the exquisite overwhelming silence which greeted Debussy’s ‘Clair de lune’? Only that more than one member of the audience suddenly decided that this was an appropriate point in the concert to cough and splutter loudly! Perhaps Live at LICA should preface all future concerts with two announcements: turn off your mobile ‘phones AND do not cough or make other intrusive noises during the concert!
Oh, and the instrument itself. I could have sat there for the entire two hours just admiring that Steinway grand in all its magnificence!
Artist’s website: http://www.pascalroge.com/
C. Debussy: Suite Bergamasque
M. Ravel: Sonatine
F. Poulenc: Les Soirées de Nazelles
E. Satie: Gnossiennes, No. 3 & 5
Improvisation No. 15 Hommage à Edith Piaf
Improvisation No. 12 Hommage à Schubert
Improvisation No. 14 in Db Major
Improvisation No. 6 in Bb Major
C. Debussy: Two Arabesques
C. Debussy: Images, Book 2
C. Debussy: L’Isle Joyeuse
Tickets were priced (web advance): Adults £21.50, Concessions £18.50, Young person/student £7.50
Future musical events at Live at LICA: https://www.liveatlica.org/whats-on