First podcast interview with French pianist Lucas Debargue in English! He is someone who just leaped onto the international classical concert scene almost out of the blue during the summer of 2015, when he became the most talked-about artist of the 15th International Tchaikovsky Competition, despite coming in last in the winner’s circle, with a 4th place ranking! Indeed, pianist Lucas Debargue’s playing, both in musical and technical terms, was so unconventional that the jury was bitterly divided over how to judge him, and yet the Russian audience of thousands who got to hear him live during the competition fell head over heels for him - and it cannot be said that Russians do not know about music.
He studied for four years with Professor Rena Sheresheskaya at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris, following what he made his big splash in Moscow, which was not only attended by the local audience, but was watched live on Medici.tv by over 10 million people around the world. In classical music terms, this made him an immediate global sensation. Despite being placed 4th, his muscular and intellectual playing, combined with an intensely poetic and lyrical gift for phrasing, earned him the coveted Moscow Music Critics’ Award as ”the pianist whose incredible gift, artistic vision and creative freedom have impressed the critics as well as the audience”. He was the only musician across all disciplines to earn this recognition. Soon after the competition, Debargue was signed by Sony Classical, with whom he has now released two albums. One of his new supporters is the Russian superstar maestro Valery Gergiev, who has taken him under his wing and invited him to perform concertos with him several times already with many more dates programmed. Lucas’ new career has truly taken off at record speed and he is now constantly touring around the world. In fact, this past year he even had the opportunity to tour with the legendary violinist Gidon Kremer, something we talk about in this interview.
A performer of fierce integrity and dazzling communicative power, Debargue draws inspiration for his playing from many disciplines, including literature, painting, cinema and jazz, which is one of the reasons I have really enjoyed getting to know him! It is also why Lucas has a lot to say about music and its place in the world of creative pursuits, and it is why this short conversation with him is meant to be only the first of two or three. This particular conversation took place in my car as I drove him to the airport after his Ravinia debut near Chicago this past August, 2016.
Note: Photo by Alexandre Switon, of George Lepauw looking over Lucas Debargue's shoulder as he plays through some music sitting on George's home piano in Chicago, August 2016.