An accomplished pianist

Musical journey

The world renowned Swiss pianist Gilles Vonsattel treated Western classical music lovers to a delightful recital in the City recently. The programme was a collaborative effort between Pro Helvetia — the Swiss Arts Council and the Bangalore School of Music.

“This is my first visit to India and I really don’t know what to expect from a new audience. It is always a thrill and a challenge to play in a completely different country. The audience is very important for the artist and the outcome of the performance generally depends on the chemistry shared. Seated at the piano, one becomes intensely aware of every cough, shuffle or shift in seats in the auditorium. Pin drop silence means you have really connected with your listeners and it is a big thrill to play for a well informed receptive audience,” says Gilles, who has performed at almost all the famous venues around the world.

His programme for the evening was a carefully planned combination of the well-known German composers like Bach and Beethoven moving on to French composers post interval.

So, why did he choose these particular compositions? “The first piece by Bach: 3 Countrapuncti is experimental and exciting while the Beethoven compositions
viz: Bagatelles Op126 and Sonate Op.110 are absolute masterpieces. I decided to move on to the French composers like Liszt, Honegger and Ravel in the second half because they are simply delightful. It is like painting a lovely picture through music full of soft colour and sensation.”

Gilles plays entirely from memory, no mean feat in itself. Swiss born but now living in America, he is an economist by profession although his passion for music has made him a successful artist.

He began touring internationally after winning the prestigious Walter W Naumburg Foundation Award in 2002. He was also featured recently in Esquire magazine as one of several ground-breaking modern classical musicians. “21st century pianists need to be  highly versatile. I have had people come in to hear just one particular piece in New York where the audience is highly aware and critical. I am also currently working on a piece by a Canadian composer which instructs the pianist to ‘do whatever he wants’  after a point,” he says. From Tokyo, Korea to Europe and America, he has played to different audiences whose cultural diversity is submerged in their common love for music.

“Eastern audiences are more polite and restrained even with their applause while certain sections of Western audiences will sometimes turn up with music scores and debate techniques and styles after the recital,” he laughs.
Gilles then proceeded to take the enthralled gathering on a musical journey that was superb in technique, rich in emotion and filled with fascinating range and colour.

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