Pianist Frank Dupree delighted audiences on his UK debut with the London Philharmonic Orchestra on Saturday 21 October, performing a programme of Rossini’s Stabat Mater and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.3 at London’s Royal Festival Hall. Peter Reed (Classical Source) was full of praise, describing the concert as “thrilling” and “unforgettable”, but he reserved his highest praise for the young German pianist, writing:
“The twenty-six-year-old Dupree has been a jazz percussionist with, to put it mildly, eclectic interests, but his engagement with Beethoven showed that he is in no way spreading himself thin. This Concerto roams from Mozartean minor-mode gravitas to moonlit German romanticism to the musical equivalent of stand-up comedy, and Dupree embraced the whole spectrum with unfailing insight, authority and an irresistible dash of glamour. His assumption of control in the first movement swaggered imposingly and he dispatched the cadenza with excoriating ferocity – he was really pushing Beethoven’s expression to the limit, but without exaggeration for its own sake. There was a vivid sense of danger in the music, but Dupree’s retreating from the spotlight, as in the noodling passage-work at the start of the development, were just as enthralling. He has a broad tonal range and a sinuous, rhythmic technique that produced some electrifying broken octaves and muscular trills – and he goes easy on the pedal. The slow movement, which Dupree shrouded with a lovely veiled sound, had unashamedly bel canto aspirations, the piano suspended in Beethoven’s dream-world, but the gloves were off for a breathtaking battle of wits in the Finale. Throughout, Prieto had defined boundaries with elegant but firm command, accommodating Dupree with immense tact but raising the orchestral opposition’s game in encouraging some beautifully regulated woodwind playing – the bassoon’s role in the first movement and a bassoon and clarinet duo in the Finale were briefly so characterful and apposite you wondered if you could take in any more delight. It was a very auspicious introduction to Frank Dupree’s artistry.”
The season marks Frank Dupree’s third and final season as artist-in-residence of the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, where he has curated a cycle of creative concert programmes, play/directing all five Beethoven concerti in the process. Further season highlights include concerts at London’s Wigmore Hall, Brussels BOZAR, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Saffron Hall, Bristol Colston Hall, Baden Baden Festspielhaus, Ravenna’s Teatro Alighieri, and with the Staatskapelle Weimar, Essen Philharmonic, Stuttgart Philharmonic (play/direct), Duisburg Philharmonic, and the Wrocław Philharmonic.