June 19, 2024

Lisa De La Salle – Live in Leeds 2024 – “enthralling”

Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds 9th June 2024

Tonight, through the noise have taken the music down from the stage and put the piano on the floor surrounded in a hemisphere by the audience. You know the thrill of being near to live music and this simple act makes it real and present.

The evening is a celebration of Lisa De Sales’ beloved Paris, opening with Mozart. Not obviously Parisian, apparently Mozart heard ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ on the Paris street and played on variations of it. Lisa explains this and works it dramatically through all the changes, bringing a smile even in the furious sections. Well, we call it ‘Twinkle Twinkle’; he called it ‘Twelve Variations on “Ah vous dirai-je, Maman”’ (“ah, shall I tell you, mother”). She is a dramatic player making it clear that the piano is a percussion instrument and making an enthralling listen. She introduces each batch of pieces and next up are three three pieces by Ravel – only the first with the typical Ravel sea sounds working up and down the keyboard, which are swiftly replaced with the choppy sounds of waves. The next piece is better known – ‘The Sad Bird’ and the third, a homage / pastiche of Spanish music, which I’m not sure Ravel really nailed, though it is fun.

The audience is still and focussed, surprised to hear Lisa introduce the last two pieces – surely time can’t have passed so quickly? With Chopin’s Ballade No.1 and Ballade No.4 she talks about the love pianists to have for Chopin, as well as people in general – certainly film composers and songwriters have considered him a mine of tunes to borrow from. She is clearly stricken with him for his complexity and the special things he does with the piano as she explains that Ballad No.4 is a competition piece; technically difficult and musically impressive.

The combination of illustrative talk about what the pieces mean for her and intimate and rigorous playing has made the set flash by. Fortunately she has an encore ready, a piece by Schubert; gentle, simple, with that special sort of Schubert happy/sad/melancholy feeling. Thanks to the special layout, the set has felt special and personal. The audience tonight has been refreshingly made of a good range of ages – from the students from Leeds Conservatoire to older fans of classical music and everything in between. This unusual approach to classical music seems to be working and Leeds seems to appreciate having more regular concerts alongside the Town Hall programme and a style where we are not necessarily sat in rows looking up – where we sit alongside and feel a closer connection.

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