Review: Jean-Paul Gasparian plays Brahms, Mozart and Messiaen at Monte-Carlo

Twenty-three year old Jean-Paul Gasparian doesn’t look his age on stage. A soft face with uncompromising eyebrows, his presence is understated, modest and unassuming. He holds a neutral stance on stage. There’s something appealing about that. It’s as though only the music is present in the room. That’s refreshing.

To start the concert, Jean-Paul crafted a tentative, subdued, and sometimes restricted interpretation of Brahms Seven Fantasies for piano. I wanted the opening Capriccio to be more demonstrative. I wanted there to be a battle. I thought the music communicated a battle but I didn’t hear it in the piano. But, I wondered whether in those louder fantasies whether he was deliberately wanting to pare things back, feeling more at ease with the work’s introspection. Sometimes the pedal muddied things a little, particularly in the louder, faster capriccios – voices felt lost in the mix in the D minor for example. But he mastered the pianissimos, for example in the A minor and E major intermezzos. This was where he created a real connection.

What really shone throughout the entire recital was a blissfully fluid right hand.  The rapid ostinatos in the capriccios exploited the instrument’s gentle action and venue’s soft acoustic.

A more disciplined approach was evident in Mozart’s Sonata No.18, something that yielded a comparatively more satisfying listen. Jean-Paul consolidated this in the third movement acquiring resolute balance, poise, and precision. After that Mozart’s Sonata No.8 shone. The instrument under control, Jean-Paul leapt through the final movement with an unassuming unfussy kind of strength.

A complete performance of Messiaen’s Vingt Regards sur l’enfant-Jesus extends to nearly two-hours. No surprises then that Jean-Paul gave us extracts. He could have given us more. I would have loved to heard more. These were fierce, riotous and evocative renditions that made what had gone before seem tame in comparison. This was where he opened up completely. A joy.

The Festival Printemps Des Arts De Monte-Carlo runs until 29 April 2018

Jean-Paul Gasparian’s debut album of solo piano works by Rachmaninoff, Scriabin and Prokofiev is available via Spotify 

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