I doubt there ever was such a profusion of pianists on the Philharmonie de Paris stage before that evening: Martha Argerich, Stephen Kovacevich, Nicholas Angelich, the excellent Akane Sakai and Lilya Zilberstein and the Buniatishvili sisters. But pianists were not everything as they were joined by Renaud Capuçon (violin), Edgar Moreau, (cello), and percussionists Jean-Claude Gengembre and Camille Baslé, to play pieces of various format (piano solo, 4 hands, 2 pianos, chamber music…).
Martha Argerich & Stephen Kovacevich kicked off the evening with Claude Debussy Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, a rare but very interesting version. Then Stephen Kovacevich beautifully played Frédéric Chopin Mazurka op. 17 No. 4.
Next were Akane Sakai and Lilya Zilberstein playing Robert Schumann’s 6 Studies in the Form of Canons in their arrangement by Debussy. These rarely played pieces are nonetheless superb counterpoint miniatures – a tribute to Bach mastery – and were highly enjoyable under the fingers of the 2 pianists.
Next was Ravel’s La Valse by the Buniatishvili sisters – I believe it is the 1st time I’ve heard the piece in that format, and was not too enthusiastic about it – and an excerpt of Szymon Laks’s Sonata for cello and piano (3rd movement) with a text read by Annie Dutoit. If like me, you are unfamiliar with the name, Laks was a Polish composer and violinist, who moved to France and during WWII became head of the prisoners’ orchestra at Birkenau-Auschwitz ; after the war he kept on composing and wrote several books.