Acclaimed interpreter of 20th century repertoire, British pianist James Willshire marks the 100th anniversary of Claude Debussy’s death with the curation of a two-day Debussy Festival. The event is part of the pianist’s involvement in the wider Debussy 2018 project, which has seen him presenting Debussy’s piano solo repertoire throughout the year in Glasgow and Edinburgh, as well as at the Leeds International Concert Season and Chetham’s School of Music.
Taking place at the newly refurbished Georgian St Cecilia’s Hall – the country’s oldest purpose-built concert hall as part of the Edinburgh’s University – on Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 December, the Debussy Festival is devoted to the French composer’s works for solo piano, piano and voice, and chamber ensemble. The programme includes 10 events, featuring 8 recitals and 2 pre-performance talks. At the heart of the Festival is a very rare condensed performance of Debussy’s complete piano solo works, with Willshire embarking on an epic musical journey lasting more than five hours over five recitals during the weekend.
The Debussy piano solo cycle includes early works, written by the composer in his twenties, all the way to pieces belonging to the late years of his life, from Deux Arabesques and Valse Romantique, to the technically demanding Etudes. The other sections of the Festival programme highlight Willshire’s interest in exploring Debussy’s use of the piano when in ensemble with other musical elements. In one concert on Sunday afternoon, fellow British pianist, chamber music specialist, and frequent Willshire collaborator, Philippa Harrison joins forces with Edinburgh Quartet ensemble member Mark Bailey (cello), and Chinese-born, Glasgow-based violinist Gongbo Jiang to present a concert of the composer’s chamber music.
Completing the Festival’s musical offerings are two recitals that showcase Debussy’s repertoire for piano and voice performed by Scottish and Scottish-based talents: renowned recitalist and Edinburgh’s St Mary’s Music School Head of Keyboard John Cameron accompanies soprano Jessica Leary – a recent participant of the Scottish Opera’s Pop-Up Tour 2018; mezzo- soprano/contralto Judy Brown, one of the voices of choice of the Monteverdi Choir; dramatic soprano and Paisley community Opera trustee.
Saturday 1 December
10:30 - solo piano James Willshire:
Hommage à Haydn (1909); Danse bohémienne (1880); Les Soirs illuminés par l’ardeur du charbon (1917); Estampes (1903); Préludes book 1 (1910)
1:10pm - voice and piano – John Cameron (piano); Jemma Brown (soprano); and Judy Brown (mezzo- soprano/contralto):
Cinq poemes de Baudelaire (1889): Le Balcon; Harmonie du Soir; Le Jet d’eau; Recueillement;
La Mort des Amants; Trois melodies de Verlaine (1891); Trois chansons de Bilitis (1898): La flute de Pan; La Chevelure; Le tombeau des naiades; Trois chansons de France (1904): Rondel I; La Grotte; Rondel ii; Fetes Galantes II (1904): Les ingenus; Le Faune; Colloque sentimental; Mandoline (1882)
3:30pm - solo piano – James Willshire:
Images oubliées (1894); Nocturne (1892); Suite bergamasque (1890); Pièce pour piano (1904); Le petit nègre (1909); Childrens Corner (1908); Tarantelle styrienne (1890)
6:15pm - pre-concert talk by Dr David Code
(University of Glasgow): Debussy and the Etude
7:00pm - solo piano – James Willshire:
Deux Arabesques (1890); Valse romantique (1890); Bérceuse héroïque (1914); Douze Etudes (1915)
Sunday 2nd December
10:30 - solo piano – James Willshire:
Rêverie (1890); Mazurka (1890); Masques (1904); Pour l’Oeuvre du “Vêtement du Blessé” (1915); Elégie (1915); Images 1 (1905); Ballade (1890); Images 2 (1908); L’Isle joyeuse (1904)
1:10pm - chamber music – Philippa Harrison (piano); Mark Bailey (cello); Gongbo Jiang (violin):
Violin Sonata (1917); Cello Sonata (1915);
Piano Trio (1880)
3:30pm - voice and piano – John Cameron (piano); Jessica Leary (soprano); and Kimberley Dove (soprano):
Ariettes Oubliees (1887): C’est l’extase; Il pleure dans mon Coeur; L’ombre des arbres; Chevaux de bois; Green; Spleen; Nuit d’Etoiles (1880); Fleur des Bles (1880); Voici que le Printemps (1884); Beau Soir (1880); Deux romances (1891): Romance; Les Cloches; Fetes Galantes I (1891): En Sourdine; Fantoches; Clair de Lune; Dans le Jardin (1891)
6:15pm - pre-concert talk by James Willshire:
Debussy and his piano cycle
7:00pm - solo piano – James Willshire:
La plus que lente (1910); Pour le piano (1901); D’un cahier d’esquisses (1904); Préludes book 2 (1913)
Saturday 1 & Sunday 2 December 2018 10.30am to 7pm
St Cecilia’s Hall, 50 Niddry Street, Edinburgh EH1 1LG
Tickets: £10 per performance (£8 concession); all-day tickets: £32 (£28 concession)