Lucas Debargue took fourth prize at the 2015 Tchaikovsky Piano Competition, but seems to have created more of a stir subsequently than any of those placed above him. The French 27-year-old was mostly self-taught until well into his teens, and his performance of Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto in the final in Moscow was reputedly his first ever appearance with an orchestra. The recital he gave on his return to Paris after the final was released by Sony Classical, and followed by a disc of Bach, Beethoven and Medtner. Now there is this unexpected pairing of middle-period Schubert and early Szymanowski, both impressively done in their very different ways.
The Schubert sonatas receive wistful, measured performances, closer to Sviatoslav Richter’s approach, say, than to Alfred Brendel’s, though there are moments in both works when Debargue seems a bit too self-indulgent and momentum is lost. Szymanowski’s rather Scriabin-like Second Sonata doesn’t allow for so much introspection, and the first movement is launched with great determination, and the final fugue dispatched with a real bravura flourish. Not quite the finished article, perhaps, but definitely a pianist to follow.