Emmanuel Despax

Pianist

At a glance

Emmanuel Despax

Pianist

Emmanuel Despax is a formidable talent, fleet of finger, elegant of phrase and a true keyboard colourist.
Gramophone

http://www.emmanueldespax.com/

Emmanuel Despax has gained worldwide recognition as a singular artist, whose interpretations bring a rare sincerity and imagination to the music.

Biography —

Emmanuel Despax has gained worldwide recognition as a singular artist, whose interpretations bring a rare sincerity and imagination to the music.

A remarkable performer of romantic and post-romantic music, he has been invited to give recital performances in the UK (Wigmore Hall, Cadogan Hall, Chipping Campden and Petworth Festivals, and the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham, where he was appointed artistic director in 2020 of a complete Beethoven piano sonata cycle); in France (Louvre Auditorium, Salle Cortot, Salle Gaveau, International Festival Les Nuits Pianistiques in Aix-en-Provence, L’été Musical au Poujoula, and Les Nuits du Château de la Moutte in Saint-Tropez); Benelux (Amsterdam, The Hague and the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels); Cyprus (Pharos Arts Foundation); Italy (Fazioli auditorium); and in South America.

Past engagements include two tours of New Zealand, hailed by critics for his recitals in the prestigious Fazioli International Piano Series in Auckland and concerto performances with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. In the UK, Emmanuel Despax has also played with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestras, among others. He is also regularly broadcast on Medici TV, France Musique, BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM. His work as a talented broadcaster has included presenting a probing and approachable edition of BBC Radio 3’s Inside Music, and he is already amassing an impressive, critically acclaimed discography.

In addition to his recording of Brahms Piano Concerto No.1 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Andrew Litton, prior releases include ‘Spira, Spera’ (Bach transcriptions) which was awarded Critics’ Choice in International Piano (“Despax is awe-inspiring in his combination of virtuosity and intellectual grasp”). His concerto debut featured Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 2 and Stephen Goss Piano Concerto, and his collection of Chopin preludes was Classic FM’s “Album of the Week” and awarded five stars in Diapason. Despax also released a piano fantasy based on the themes of The Sound of Music in celebration of the musical’s 60th anniversary.

His 2021 album of Chopin’s piano concerti with the Chineke! Chamber Ensemble, was chosen as “Album of the Week” by Classic FM and The Times: “[The result] is entrancing, with piano and string quintet intimately interweaving…Despax’s opening statement arrives like a blast of dynamite. Though he sinks happily into meltingly lovely reverie when Chopin’s intentions allow, he’s driven mostly by dark energy and muscular strength. In doing so, Despax reveals to us the music of a 20-year-old already stretching beyond decorative brilliance towards the powerful expression of contradictory, sometimes troubling emotions.”

His latest album release, Après un rêve, by Signum Records, has also gained recognition in The Times and Classic FM as “Album of the Week” and received a 5-star review in BBC Music Magazine: “Despax is a formidable pianist, thoughtful and imaginative. Like an expert painter at the canvas, he carefully layers and tones sound, expertly measuring touch and pedal. This is beautiful playing, on an elegant yet substantial album.”

Born in Paris and now based in London, Emmanuel Despax started playing the piano in Aix-en-Provence before joining the Yehudi Menuhin School, then the Royal College of Music in London, studying with Ruth Nye, one of Claudio Arrau’s star students. He won numerous awards during his studies (Chappell Medal, Tagore Gold Medal), and benefited from the advice of Nikolai Demidenko, Leon Fleisher, Yehudi Menuhin, Dominique Merlet, Mstislav Rostropovich, Murray Perahia and András Schiff.

For this upcoming season, Emmanuel looks forward to collaborating with the Piatti Quartet at Kings Place followed by multiple solo and chamber performances at London’s brand new Bechstein Hall. At the invitation of Bechstein Hall Artistic Director Terence Lewis, Emmanuel Despax has curated a trio of extraordinary soloists to form the inaugural Bechstein Hall Trio. Despax will be joined by world-leading cellist Guy Johnston and acclaimed violinist Priya Mitchell in performances at Bechstein Hall throughout the 2024/2025 season.

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Reviews —

Despax is a formidable pianist, thoughtful and imaginative. Like an expert painter at the canvas, he carefully layers and tones sound, expertly measuring touch and pedal. This is beautiful playing, on an elegant yet substantial album.

Natasha Loges, BBC Music Magazine - Après un rêve album, Signum Records

Emmanuel Despax’s Chopin is dreamy, entrancing and fresh - The result is entrancing, with piano and string quintet intimately interweaving, adding extra strength and beauty to scores already potent enough with their melodic riches and romantic allure. And if you imagine the results might be rather dainty, you don’t know Emmanuel Despax. Coming after the eloquent string players’ long introduction to the First Concerto, Despax’s opening statement arrives like a blast of dynamite. Though he sinks happily into meltingly lovely reverie when Chopin’s intentions allow, he’s driven mostly by dark energy and muscular strength. In doing so, Despax reveals to us the music of a 20-year-old already stretching beyond decorative brilliance towards the powerful expression of contradictory, sometimes troubling emotions.

Geoff Brown, The Times (Album of the Week) - Chopin Piano Concertos album, Signum

What beauty in his two Chopin concertos! … The tone is passionate, the virtuosity scintillating, the lyricism on the edge of the keys. The two slow movements? He sings them as a prince of phrasing. Discover Emmanuel Despax!

Philippe Cassard, L’Obs - Chopin Piano Concertos album, Signum

When played with such aplomb as by Despax and the Chineke! Chamber Ensemble they are simply magnificent. Played with the authority, control and enthusiasm of Despax and Chineke, the results are breath-taking. Even the booklet notes by Bryce Morrison shift to reviewer mode and wax lyrical about these accounts. Despax’s touch and tone are immaculate and Signum’s recordings are sensational. Heartily recommended.

Guy Rickards, International Piano - Chopin Piano Concertos album, Signum

Despax's pianism is all we know to expect from him by now: considered, eminently musical, deeply committed. He is clearly at home in chamber music, and the Chineke! players are most sympathetic partners.

Colin Clarke, Classical Explorer - Chopin Piano Concertos album, Signum

Selected Discography —

Après un rêve

Darkness and devilry lurk in the shadows...Despax has recorded Bach, Brahms, Chopin, but the works here particularly suit his sensibility. In Maurice Ravel’s haunting masterpiece Gaspard de la Nuit, he masters the ferocious challenges with ease, delicacy, strength.

The Guardian

Chopin Piano Concertos Chamber Versious

[The result] is entrancing, with piano and string quintet intimately interweaving...Despax’s opening statement arrives like a blast of dynamite. Though he sinks happily into meltingly lovely reverie when Chopin’s intentions allow, he’s driven mostly by dark energy and muscular strength.

The Times (Album of the Week)

Brahms Piano Concerto No.1- 16 Waltzes

It is that length and breadth, every dramatic incursion and the poetic parenthesis of it, that the immaculately dextrous young French virtuoso Emmanuel Despax and the BBC Symphony Orchestra in top form under the mature sway of Andrew Litton seem intent on revealing.

Bayan Northcott, BBC Music Magazine (****)

Spira, Spera

Despax is awe-inspiring in his combination of virtuosity and intellectual grasp. A fascinating album by a pianist of fierce intellect and consummate technique.

Colin Clarke, International Piano (Critics’ Choice)

The Sound of Music Fantasy

At a time when we need fun and escape, Despax’s offering, released on the Signum label, allows us to revisit a cherished familar in an imaginative, glorious way. The pianism, incidentally, is phenomenal, as is Signum’s recording. Despax is in a direct line of teachers from Claudio Arrau and it is clear he has inherited a deep, burnished sound and, despite the difficulties of his own piece, a real humility that always puts the music first.

Colin Clarke, Classical Explorer

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