This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
This very evening at 6.30 pm at the India International Centre, where else, you can experience “a romantic nature, a clear articulation, a beautiful sound”, as vouched for by La Presse, Montreal, from young Canadian pianist Mathieu Gaudet. He’s on a seven-concert tour of India, his first appearance in Asia.
Gaudet has volunteered as a doctor-in-training in Africa and with the Inuit of Northern Canada. He is reported to have spectacularly played the complete 24 Preludes by Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943), which was recorded and will be released as a CD this November.
Rachmaninov? On and off!
Indians will surely thrill to the Russian spiritual tradition that flows through Rachmaninov’s music. He won a gold medal at 19 from the Moscow Conservatoire (music college) and was rated a brilliant pianist, but his heart lay in composing. As a young man, he was complimented by none other than the great Russian composer Piotr Tchaikovsky and even given a piano portion of the score for The Sleeping Beauty to inscribe.
However, the public reaction to his first piece, at age 23, was so bad that he went into deep shock and couldn’t write another note until he was brought out of it by a hypnotist, Dr Dahl! Rachmaninov was also deeply upset that the Russian Orthodox Church objected to his marriage with his cousin Natalia.
The Russian Revolution forced him and his family to migrate to Stockholm and finally, to survive, he had to go to the US and become a concert pianist. Rachmaninov died of cancer before his 70th birthday, pining all the while for his homeland. His natural wit and humour was apparently mixed with profound melancholy, resulting in the beauty that is won through to after the heart is battered.
It’s always exciting when a young musician brings fresh life and passion to great old composers, so don’t miss this concert. Gaudet is expected to play the following mix of ‘Classical’ and ‘Romantic’ pieces from the Western classical tradition: J.S. Bach’s French Suite no. 3 in B minor, Schumann’s Davidsbundlertanze opus 6, Beethoven’s Sonata in E major, opus 109 and Rachmaninov’s Preludes for piano Op. 3 No. 2, Op. 32 Nos. 4,5,10,11 and Op.23 No.2.
Western music is not my regular thing but this does strike me about Gaudet’s programme: the Beethoven sonata (composed in 1820) seems an interesting choice for a young pianist, because it is from Beethoven’s final creative phase and so, a very rich, philosophical work. If you can’t make it to this concert, do try to hear Gaudet on YouTube and sample both Rachmaninoff’s Preludes and Beethoven’s piano sonatas likewise.
PS: Chances are that your Indian classical side will respond instantly to Beethoven and Bach for their orderly structure, math and harmony. But if you, like me, dip just the occasional happy toe in Western musical waters, do hear Mozart’s piano concertos as a karmic duty (Clara Haskil’s recordings are guaranteed to turn you into butter).