Bruce Liu magnificent in two concertos at La Chaux-de-Fonds

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La Chaux-de-Fonds. Music room. 12-I-2023. Frederic Chopin (1810-1849); Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971): Les Sylphides, Nocturne n°2 in A flat major, op.32. Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849): Concerto for piano and orchestra in F minor. Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921): Concerto n°5 for piano and orchestra in F major “The Egyptian”, op.103. Bruce Liu, piano. Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971): The Firebird, ballet suite from 1919. Ensemble Symphonique Neuchâtel, musical direction: Victorien Vanoosten

At La Chaux-de-Fonds, Bruce Liu offers the same evening on Piano Concerto No. 2 of Chopin followed by #5 by Saint-Saëns, accompanied by theNeuchâtel Symphony Ensemble and the chief Victorian Vanoosten.


Since his First Prize at the 2021 Chopin CompetitionBruce Liu’s career exploded and allowed him to spend the beginning of the year at La Chaux-de-Fonds with a program called ” Bruce Liu-style gourmet piano », in which he performed the same evening two of the greatest romantic piano concertos in the repertoire. Symphonically introduced by The Sylphids in Stravinsky’s transcription, the program makes a very clever link between the overture and the last symphonic piece of the concert, since this short Nocturne n°2 d’après Chopin is actually a study of style, requested by Diaghilev with the aim of verifying the ability of the young Russian to be able to compose ballets for him thereafter, the first of the three great ones, Fire Bird, is rightly proposed in conclusion. Undoubtedly Stravinsky’s most romantic piece, The Sylphids allows you to take advantage of the airy timbres of theNeuchâtel Symphony Ensemble and more particularly of his solo flute.

Centerpieces of the concert, the concertos allow us to discover a little better a Canadian artist still little heard in Europe, who is already one of the most exciting pianists of the moment at only twenty-five years old. With the Concerto No. 2 of Frédéric Chopinthis one demonstrates an extraordinary dexterity, without the slightest demonstration and with this roundness already characterized during the final of the Chopin Competition, then in recital at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées one year earlier. Bruce Liu develops in his own way, without ever using the pedals too much, a Maestoso all in finesse, then a sweet Larghettoeach time with a right hand of the purest flexibility, particularly brilliant in the high part of the coda of 1er movement. Less bouncing than under other wrists, theallegro vivacious finds a beautiful harmony with the small ensemble that accompanies it, leaving the most beautiful moment to the cadence.


After the intermission, the same return for the Concerto No. 5 of Camille Saint-Saëns, created by the artist at the Salle Pleyel in 1896, a landmark year for the La Chaux-de-Fonds Music Society founded only three years earlier and which celebrates its 130th anniversary this year. The composer had come to play there in May on the organ of the Temple during a concert for which the critic of The Impartial had been able to glimpse the sublime and unsurpassable “. On high spheres, Bruce Liu begins with the same tact as for Chopin a Egyptian which finds in the light accompaniment of the Neuchâtel Symphonic Ensemble and in its woodwinds subtle sonorities, with French colors well highlighted by the direction of Victorian Vanoosten. Superb virtuosity in the wisely approached variations of theAllegro animeLiu contrasts at first rather little theAndante before bringing out his Nubian song, with the support of the violins and in particular the first of them, Felix Froschhammer. The final, Molto Allegro, benefits from an increase in dynamics by which the pianist spreads out the splendors of his playing, before proposing in encore with the conductor a nice Fairy Garden by Ravel, initiated in the pain of four tangled hands to gradually refine itself to a magical coda.

In the last part, the Continued 1919 of Fire Bird, the shortest of the ballet, logically chosen since performed after already two concertos, gives more volume to the formation, although it is made up of only about fifty musicians. With a beautiful dynamic instilled by the musical director, the work begins with well-marked bass on the strings, despite the presence of only three double basses and four cellos. The balances sometimes make certain instruments stand out too much, in particular the harp in the Round of the Princesses or the triangle in the coda, but also allow the beautiful highlighting of the woodwinds – the bassoon, however, less striking in its grand solo than it was during the concertos – to rather let the flute and the first clarinet stand out. Very clear, the abrupt chords of the Infernal Dance manage to startle part of the audience, while the first horn carefully introduces the Final to conclude this very beautiful Swiss evening.

Photo credits: © Xavier Voirol

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La Chaux-de-Fonds. Music room. 12-I-2023. Frederic Chopin (1810-1849); Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971): Les Sylphides, Nocturne n°2 in A flat major, op.32. Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849): Concerto for piano and orchestra in F minor. Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921): Concerto n°5 for piano and orchestra in F major “The Egyptian”, op.103. Bruce Liu, piano. Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971): The Firebird, ballet suite from 1919. Ensemble Symphonique Neuchâtel, musical direction: Victorien Vanoosten

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