REVIEW – On the 4th March, the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées opened its doors to the charismatic young pianist, Simon Ghraichy. The striking young pianist celebrated his French, Mexican & Lebanese roots with a brilliantly eclectic program.
Ghraichy started the concert with Marquez’s infamous Danzon No. 2. The rhythms originating from Cuban dance rippled from the piano, and the nostalgic melodies were stretched out and gradually sped up to a grandiose end. The audience were hooked. In contrast, Liszt’s Sonata in B minor showed his technical brilliance throughout an uninterrupted 3- movement piece. He drew out the three distinct motives and played the dark chords at slightly different times to create a surreal, melancholic mood.
In the second half, Ghraichy changed into a patchwork waistcoat and striking Argentinian shoes- the South American inspired program perfectly matched his outfit. He showcased a wonderful mix from a variety of composers, all of whom were influenced by Liszt’s revolutionary Sonata. Ghraichy started with a cheerful trio of Cuban dance music La comparsa, Cordoba and La 32 by Ernesto Lecuona (1895-1963). This moved seamlessly to Debussy’s allusive Serenade Interrompue, the virtuosic Cantos de España by Isaac Albéniz reaching New York Skyline by Heitor Villa-Lobos.
A loud ‘Encore!’ from the audience led to the much anticipated surprise performances. Two percussionists from the Orchestre National de France arrived on stage with a set of Latin percussion including bongos, a wood block and shakers. The iconic Danzon No. 2 was played once again, but in a whole new way, with the percussion bringing out the syncopated accents and varying tempi. The piano melody sang above the rest, while the percussion highlighted the Cuban-dance rhythms, staying meticulously in time. The audience were on the edge of their seats, swaying to the rhythms. The final encore was sung by the Argentinian Soprano, Mariana Flores. She performed two songs, accompanied by Ghraichy on the piano, and the raw emotion she shared with the audience was a fitting end to a very moving evening.
From Cuban dance, Latin percussion, to Argentinian song, this was not your average classical concert at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées . Ghraichy is bringing a new image to classical music through his multi-cultural roots, reaching out to a young public that want to hear more.
Written by Anna Quinn