The winner of last year's Clara Haskil Competition, in Vevey, Switzerland -- which also recognized one Martin Helmchen, who won in 2001 -- was a 22-year-old pianist named Adam Laloum. He won with a memorable performance of Mozart's C minor piano concerto, K. 491, but a chance to hear him play a public recital just happened earlier this month, at the Festival de Saintes. He played Mozart's K. 282, the Brahms op. 76 pieces, and the D. 894 sonata of Schubert. Renaud Machart wrote a review (Adam Laloum, jeune pianiste, déjà grand artiste et poète, July 13) for Le Monde (my translation):
We were surprised to learn that, in Saintes, he was playing the D. 894 sonata for only the second time in public, when everything seemed to indicate a long familiarity with this masterpiece. One could think this young musician not really made for the "career": a little wild (after the competition in Vevey, he fled the award ceremony to go smoke by the lake), passionate but timid and not talkative, he seemed stunned, more than out of his depth, by what was happening to him.Adam Laloum also played a recital at the Verbier Festival on July 17, where he played Schumann's Davidsbündlertänze, two Debussy preludes, a Brahms intermezzo (op. 117), and Schubert's D. 894. You can watch that recital as an online video from Medici.TV. It's unlikely I will hear another live performance anytime soon to challenge what Mitsuko Uchida made of the Davidsbündlertänze at her recital earlier this year, but Laloum can spin an exquisite phrase, if there are little cracks in the virtuosity here and there. Also, one could be forgiven for thinking he is the younger cousin of François-Frédéric Guy.
What has changed, then, since winning this prize? "Stress appeared in my life, which I did not really know before. Chamber music affords the pleasure of sharing in a collective adventure. Playing these sublime pages alone in front of an audience is another matter. Before the competition, I was playing Schumann's Kreisleriana for everything. Since then I had to put together a repertoire with the inevitable physical discomfort tied to such intensive work."
Still, in spite of his fragile appearance and fingers of surprising finesse, Adam Laloum demonstrates an impressive physical strength. The underlying storms of the Brahms come from a hollow of silence and grow up to a rumbling thunder, violent but never brutal. There is beauty in this Brahmsian darkness, and Laloum understood how to hit on the just the right tone for the Mozartian terror, hidden so well behind the delicacy of an unmannered style of playing.