The Minster Church in Axminster was the venue for a piano recital by the eminent French pianist Bernard d’Ascoli on Saturday, November 3.

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The acoustic of the Minster Church is just right for a piano recital having almost a salon ambience, allowing us to hear all of the subtleties of this blind musician’s playing.

The evening was devoted to four composers, Debussy, Ravel, Schubert and Chopin.

M’sieur d’Ascoli talked interestingly about his programme before playing, pointing out to us that the whole of the first part revolved around the subject of water.

We heard four Debussy Preludes, Brouillards, Ondine, la Cathedral Engloutie and Ce qu’a vue le vent d’ouest.

Next were two pieces from Gaspard de la Nuit by Ravel , Jeux d’ eau and Ondine. The first part of the evening was then brought to a conclusion with more Debussy in the form of Reflets dans l’eau, Poissons d’or and Jardins sous la pluie from Images, followed by the solo piece L’Isle Joyeuse.

After the interval came four Impromptus, Opus 90 by Schubert, followed by some Chopin in the form of the D Flat Nocturn opus 27 and the Scherzo No 3 in C Sharp Minor Opus 39.

The evening was marked by sensitive playing with a wonderful balance between left and right hands which brought out the inner voices of the music with great subtlety.

His playing displayed wonderful tonal refinement with judicious use of rubato.

The first half of the programme, with the Debussy and Ravel brought out a luminous tone quality in the playing.

The artiste, in his opening remarks, stated that ‘Schubert is always smiling, although he can have his darker moments’.

The ‘smiling’ nature of the Impromptus was clearly brought out and the concluding Chopin brought out the sheer poetry of this composer’s music.

The sizeable audience volubly expressed their enjoyment and appreciation at the end of a wonderful evening.

Trevor Bolshaw

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