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French Virtuosos to Tickle the Ivories in Beijing Festival

Searching on the Internet for any tour information about Toulouse, most of the websites suggest you not miss the Piano aux Jacobins if you visit the French city in September. Since the first event in September 1980, the annual festival of piano recitals has been acclaimed as one of the best piano festivals in Europe.


Every year, some 12 to 16 of the world's renowned pianists or young virtuosos of the new generation perform in the cloister of an ancient monastery, the Cloitre des Jacobins, lying at the heart of the Couvent des Jacobins.


Eager to fly to Toulouse for the beautiful recitals? Wait a second, please. There comes the good news. The organizer of the festival has brought the talented pianists to Beijing, and the venue is also special the concert hall at the garden of the Forbidden City.


Last night, the French pianist Frank Braley gave a good opening performance. He played Schubert's Two Impromptus, Beethoven's Sonata in C minor and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue to enthusiastic applause. Braley impressed the audience with his exceptional stature and outstanding musical and poetic qualities.


The 37-year-old pianist first performed at the Piano aux Jacobins in 1998 and returned a few times. It is his third tour to Beijing. Five years ago, he performed with the Toulouse Symphony Orchestra at Poly Theatre, and at last year's Beijing Music Festival, he was the member of Orchestra National de France under the baton of master Dutoit.


Tonight, the 35-year-old French pianist Mathieu Papadiamandis will play Debussy, Chopin and Liszt, and tomorrow, the 36-year-old Swedish pianist Daniel Propper will perform Chopin, Ravel, Liszt and Grieg.


"All three have a close relationship with the Piano aux Jacobins," said Paul Arnaud Pejouan-Cassanelli, director and founder of Piano aux Jacobins.


"They are talents of the new generation. Each has a different personality, and their music is interpreted in their personal ways."


He said that the Beijing edition of the Piano aux Jacobins resulted from the visit paid by the representatives of Beijing to Toulouse for the events of the Year of China in France. In September 2003, Pejouan-Cassanelli and the artistic director Catherine d'Argoubet invited the representatives to stage concerts at the festival and discussed the possibility to present one in Beijing.


"In the last 25 years, we have invited some Chinese pianists to our festival, such as Xu Zhong and Zhu Xiaomei," said Pejouan-Cassanelli. "We know that China has many young talented pianists today as well as a great many piano fans, so we want to come here to share the music with them, introduce them to the forefront of European pianists and discover new talents here."


D'Argoubet added that the first philosophy of the Jacobins festival is to present young or unknown artists. "But if all the pianists are new faces, the public would not be interested in our festival, so every year, we also bring some big names," said the pianist-turned- festival-director.


"Actually, I regret that we were too late to come to China where you have so many talents," she added. She said she hoped this trip would spark a collaboration with talent from the country.


(China Daily December 9, 2005)

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