The Cambridge music community has been trying hard not to keep it a secret, but Patrick Hemmerlé's position as one of the premier pianists in Europe - and perhaps the premier in this area of the repertoire - is beginning to be understood. Patrick's triumph at this year's Concours Festival de Répertoire Pianistique Moderne in Paris, with the congratulations of the jury, is leading to new invitations to perform each time he plays, as well as, on this occasion, to a new CD contract.
This concert at Little St Mary's Parish Church, Cambridge ("smaller, but higher...") was a demonstration of the status of Cambridge as a world centre of excellence. Patrick played Prokofiev's Visions Fugitives, and Villa Lobos' Rudepoeme, the centrepiece of his competition success, with power, subtlety, pace and elegance.
His virtuosity requires full concentration from the listener, and his left hand, surprisingly for an artist whose hands are relatively small, produces breathtaking, sustained power and hits like an earthquake. I've listened to many of the most celebrated pianists in the world, live or on disk, and have never heard such sudden, dramatic impact from the bass in any style of music. No Bosendorfer either - the instrument at this concert was a small Yamaha grand. Patrick's introductions are witty, and to the point. The Villa Lobos piece was intended as a portrait of Rubenstein - as which, said Patrick, it was a failure. It was, though, very accurate as a portrayal of Villa Lobos.
Adrienne Kelly Jackson joined Patrick for performances of Prokofiev's second sonata for flute and piano, and Jolivet's Chant de Linos, derived from the Greek myth of the unfortunate music teacher who was killed by his pupil Heracles for criticising his playing. Perfect timing, complementary virtuosity and a slightly breathy tone that lent colour and humanity to music that does not rely on melody for effect, even if Linos himself is credited with having invented it.
World-class artistry in a small church, reflected by the glorious, gleaming silver candlesticks on the altar.