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Francois-Xavier Poizat, a Piano Recital, at Weill Recital Hall

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New York Concert Artists & Assoc.
François-Xavier Poizat, Piano

Weill Recital Hall


Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 2, 2018

Franz Liszt (1811-1886): From Années de pélerinage, premiere année S. 160, “La Chapelle de Guillaume Tell”, “Au bord d’une source”, “Les cloches de Genève”, “La Vallée d’Obermann”.

Liszt: Mephistowaltzer no. 1, S. 514, “Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke”.

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937): Le Tombeau de Couperin, “Prelude”, “Fugue”, “Forlane”, “Rigaudon”, “Menuet”, “Toccata”.

Ravel: La Valse, “poème chorégraphique pour orchestre” (arr. Alexander Ghindin).

It was such a pleasure to discover the vibrant and so sophisticated young pianist, François-Xavier Poizat tonight at Weill Hall, with a lush program of works by Liszt and Ravel. In fact, two of the four works, Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin and Liszt’s La Valse, are often heard as ballet scores during New York City Ballet seasons. Mr. Poizat, of French, Chinese, and Swiss cultural roots, has won a 2004 Grand Prix Award in an international competition in Germany, and he is now the director of the Puplinge Classique Festival in Geneva. Mr. Poizat enjoys playing jazz, as well as classical, and he even studies martial arts. In addition, he performs with internationally renowned large orchestras. He was first discovered at the age of twelve by the iconic pianist, Martha Argerich (whose concerts I enjoyed years ago at Carnegie Hall), who invited him to perform at a Festival in Japan. An upcoming review of Mr. Poizat’s CD, Pianorchestra 2, will be linked to these pages.

The opening work by Liszt, from Années de pélerinage, premiere année S. 160, included the movements, “La Chapelle de Guillaume Tell”, “Au bord d’une source”, “Les cloches de Genève”, and “La Vallée d’Obermann”. It was immediately noteworthy that Mr. Poizat does not use sheet music, but, rather, plays by memory. This work opened dramatically with “La Chapelle de Guillaume Tell”, the theme rising in scale with deep chordal refrains. In “Au bord d’une source”, waterfalls of dripping notes swirl like a spring breeze on sailboats in the current. “Les cloches de Genève” brought forth bell tones, and Mr. Poizat played with refined demeanor throughout. This theme seemed elegantly filmatic. “La Vallée d’Obermann” had a mournful, echoing theme, resonant and sorrowful. Peaceful, musical bliss ensued. A driven treble preceded the momentum in the finale.

The first of Liszt’s four waltzes in Mephistowaltzer, S.514, named “Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke” (“The Dance in the Village Inn”), created dervish, waltzlike spinning phrases, once again imbued with retro filmatic elements. My research indicates that Nikolaus Lenau wrote an episode about Mephistopheles playing a fiddle at a country wedding, with Faust dancing about with the carousing guests. Mr. Poizat certainly expanded upon the work’s echoing, swirling dynamism.

One of my favorite Balanchine ballets is scored to Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin. Mr. Poizat certainly created the dancelike rhythms in his performance, although his piano was more rapid than the full orchestra at the ballet. He maximized Ravel’s syncopation in the “Prelude”. In the “Fugue”, a gorgeous pulse ensued, while the “Forlane” had a slow, spellbinding element. Regal refrains were heard. The “Rigaudon” was rapid and dervish, both higher then lower on the scale. Melancholia becomes explosive in its finale. Yet, the “Menuet” was languorous and structured. The “Toccata’ was esoteric and mesmerizing.

When Mr. Poizat tore into Ravel’s La Valse, also the score for one of my favorite Balanchine ballets, titled for the music, he generated a windswept theme, eerie and, again, filmatic and foreboding. At time, the waltzes are off-key, enhancing the tonal edge. Mr. Poizat slid his hands up and down the keyboard, relaxed in the moment, evoking spellbinding lyricism. The tragic story that ensues in the ballet is not relevant to this oeuvre. What is relevant is what Mr. Poizat so poetically presented, the sumptuous, swirling, sensuous refrains of a formal waltz under chandeliers.

As encores, Mr. Poizat gifted the audience with superb piano renditions of Stravinsky's Petrushka and a Shostakovich waltz, fanciful and frenzied. Kudos to François-Xavier Poizat.

François-Xavier Poizat,
at Weill Recital Hall
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at