French pianist Lucas Debargue (1990) was discovered by the music world after performing at the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 2015. Despite only placing fourth, he was the only contestant who was awarded the coveted Moscow Music Critic’s Prize as a pianist “whose incredible gift, artistic vision and creative freedom have impressed the critics as well as the audience”. After his performance in the final, the audience gave a fifteen minute-long standing ovation, and the jury was noticeably split between Debargue’s passionate supporters and stubborn deniers.
“Debargue is a befuddling case of musical potential. His talent is real; his training, mysterious; his artistry, at times arrestingly beautiful. Not since Ivo Pogorelich in 1980 has a pianist garnered more attention for, essentially, not winning a competition” summarised critics (KQED). Adding: “Power, subtlety, control, imagination, taste – he’s got it all” (Le Point).
Debargue’s route into music is not the most typical. He began playing the piano at age eleven, but soon turned his attention to literature, graduating from the Paris Diderot University with a Bachelor’s degree in Arts and Literature. However, as a teenager he had explored much of the repertoire for piano (paying more attention, however, to rock and jazz).
Debargue only began learning the piano at a professional level at the age of twenty. A crucial role in his life was played by piano teacher Rena Shereshevskaya, whom he met in 2011, giving him the opportunity to begin studies at the École Normale de Musique de Paris “Alfred Cortot”. He graduated in 2016 with a diploma in piano performance and the Cortot special prize, continuing to study there for a year with Rena Shereshevskaya.
Soon after the Tchaikovsky competition, Debargue was invited to play at the world’s leading concert halls both as a soloist and with leading orchestras – the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Hall and Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall, Théâtre des Champs Elysées, the Salle Gaveau, the concert halls of Milan, London, Amsterdam, Munich, Berlin, Stockholm, New York and elsewhere.
He has collaborated with world class conductors such as Valery Gergiev, Mikhail Pletnev, Vladimir Jurowski, Andrey Boreyko and Vladimir Fedoseyev. He has also played in chamber ensembles with Gidon Kremer, Janine Jansen and Martin Fröst.
Debargue performed with the conductor of the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra, Andris Poga, at the Festival de La Roque-d’Anthéron in France, the orchestra Kremerata Baltica both in Latvia and on an Asian concert tour, and he has given several solo concerts in Riga, Cēsis and Valmiera. When introducing him to the Latvian public, Inese Lūsiņa wrote: “Finding the truth of the sound and not lying to oneself during the performance – this is not just a nice sentiment here. This is the sound of phenomenally gifted, free-spirited French pianist Lucas Debargue’s creative credo.”
Debargue gains his inspiration during performances from literature, paintings, cinema and jazz, and he creates very personal interpretations of a carefully chosen repertoire. Although he generally deals with mainstream piano repertoire, Debargue also enjoys learning pieces by lesser-known composers such as Nikolai Medtner, Nikolai Roslavets or Miłosz Magin. He also composes and performs his own music: the Concertino “Orpheo di camera” for piano, drums and string orchestra was created in Cēsis in June 2017, when Debargue performed with Kremerata Baltica.
Sony Classical has already released three of Debargue’s solo albums with music by Scarlatti, Chopin, Liszt and Ravel (2016), Bach, Beethoven and Medtner (2016), Schubert and Szymanowski (2017), as well as Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, in which he plays with Martin Fröst, Janine Jansen and Torleif Thedéen. In 2017 Debargue received an ECHO Klassik award. “Debargue is fantastically gifted: original, free of any academicism, eccentric sometimes to the point of exaggeration, but also exciting,” writes the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.