Born in 1987, pianist Gaspard Dehaene is gaining recognition as a leading French pianist of his generation. A graduate of Paris Conservatory, he has appeared as a recitalist, orchestral soloist and a chamber musician in his native France as well as abroad in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Morocco, New Caledonia, China and Japan. His recent performances include an appearance at Paris Philharmonie performing Liszt’s 1st Piano Concerto and an appearance at New York’s Guggenheim Museum performing in Satie’s Vexations anniversary.
He has won awards at international piano competitions such as San Sebastian, Piano Campus and Grand Prix Alain Marinaro, and appeared on stages at prestigious piano festivals such as La Roque d’Anthéron, Radio France Montpellier and more. His second CD released on February of 2019 entitled ‘Vers l’ailleurs‘, was met with praise by critics.
On September 25th, he will make his U.S. solo recital debut at Carnegie Hall as a winner of the Pro Musicis International Prize.
You are performing a debut recital at Carnegie Hall soon as a winner of a Pro Musicis International Award. How do you feel about your upcoming debut?
I’m really excited about my upcoming concert… it’s special for me. When I got a chance to play at Carnegie Hall, I couldn’t believe it. Playing at Carnegie Hall is a dream come true for me because it’s where many great pianists from the past have performed! Legendary pianists like Horowitz and many others gave concerts there. For me, it’s a gift because it makes me feel like I will be a small part of the hall’s legend… I look forward to sharing great music with the audience.
Can you tell us about your recital program? For example, what led you to choose this program for the upcoming concert?
The program for my upcoming concert presents two different stories from my CD, ‘Vers l’ailleurs’ – a triple journey through the seas, on earth and through time. It includes two Schubert-Liszt song transcriptions, ‘Auf dem Wasser zu singen’ and ‘Aufenthalt’. Aufenthalt advocates the heaviness of the earth and terrestrial life. Another Liszt piece on the CD is ‘Spanish Rhapsody’ which was composed eighteen years after Liszt’s concert tour of Spain and Portugal.
The third journey is the journey through time…especially through life. When Schubert composed his grand ‘Sonata, No. 20, D. 959‘, he composed it two months before he died. So in this masterpiece, there is a testimony of Schubert’s life – the many things he experienced in his life. This sonata captures a wide range of emotional atmosphere from rich, dramatic to joyful and at times, humorous.
There are also two cycles of folk dances – ‘Landler’ from Schubert and ‘Mazurkas’ from Chopin. What I find interesting is that both are folk dances… dances of common people, but Chopin and Schubert took this folk dance genre from their countries and translated them into their musical languages. They transformed them into something highly thoughtful and sophisticated with rich harmonies while keeping folk elements.
Are you the only musician in your family?
My mother is Anne Queffélec who is regarded as one of the greatest French pianists of our time. She is well-known for her recordings of Ravel, Debussy, Satie and more. She studied with Alfred Brendel when she was younger so she also played a lot of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. Thanks to her, I was able to meet Alfred Brendel and play Schubert sonata for him. Since I studied with my mother who studied with Alfred Brendel, I felt a connection. Playing for him directly allowed me to discover another kind of truth… Brendel owns his truth about interpreting Schubert.
I grew up listening to my mother playing all the time. She worked with me on my musical ears and how to perceive music deep inside me. Through her, I learned early on what it’s like to be a professional pianist. My grandfather who is also her father and her brother who is my uncle, are famous writers. My uncle, Yann Queffélec won Prix Goncours, a highest prize in French literature. Through my grandfather and my uncle, I learned the importance of reading in order to become a great musician.
You studied piano in Paris. Can you tell us about your piano training in Paris?
I studied at Paris Conservatory which has a long tradition steeped in French culture. It’s a legendary institution where Gabriel Fauré has been a director. It offers a comprehensive curriculum to prepare students to meet high artistic standards. There are courses in theory,
vocal accompanying, sight reading, theater, Alexander Technique, composition, etc. Paris Conservatory has also evolved with time and it is more international today.Today, there is an emphasis on contemporary music and compositions by student composers. I really enjoyed my studies there. When it’s time to leave, you can be sad that you will not learn from there anymore.
Who are some of your favorite composers?
I have many favorites but in the past two years, I spent a lot of time on Schubert and Liszt. These days, I’m interested in revisiting Chopin and Beethoven and getting know more about them by spending more time with them. I don’t want to play too many different composers in one year. In order to create a relationship, one needs to focus on a few composers. You always learn and relearn what you already knew. I always like to make fresh, new discoveries about the composers I spent time on.
Who are some of your favorite pianists?
There are many pianists I admire. I try to be inspired by pianists from the past like Alfred Cortot, Vladimir Horowitz, Emil Gilels, Vladimir Sofronitsky, Josef Hofmann and more. I’m interested in how pianists were playing before the sixties. I also love Alfred Brendel, Radu Lupu, Arcadi Volodos, Nicholas Angelich and Martha Argerich.
You have given concerts playing a complete work of Eric Satie. Is Satie your favorite French composer?
Thanks to Satie, I performed ‘Vexations’ in Guggenheim Museum two years ago. It was my first time in New York. It was a great experience performing in New York City for the first time. Satie is a composer who stands apart from all the other composers. Many people say they don’t like classical music but they love Satie. He managed to communicate and get understood by people who have no interest in classical music, especially those who view classical music as elitist. He used simple material and chords to create expressive sounds. He also had big sense of humor and was curious about life. This is perhaps the reason why everyone can relate to Satie. Due to these reasons, I have a deep appreciation for Satie.
Do you also play other French composers such as Debussy or Maurice Ravel?
Yes, I played a lot of Debussy and Ravel but I also played many other French composers such as Jean Cras, Charles Koechlin, Albert Roussel, Reynaldo Hahn, Ernest Chausson and Gabriel Fauré. As a French pianist, I’m interested in playing as much French music as I can! It helps me to understand various periods and history of my country.
You have a unique name. Your name must remind many pianists of Ravel’s masterpiece, ‘Gaspard de la Nuit’. Is there any meaning behind your name?
Yes, indeed. The name was brought up during a dinner conversation that my parents were having with Michel Béroff, a well-known French pianist along with other musician guests. Michel Béroff suggested ‘Gaspard’ to my mother who was pregnant with me at that time. The name was rare back then and my parents thought it was original, beautiful and quite strong, so they immediately decided to go with Gaspard. The name is fashionable nowadays and there are many boys named Gaspard. Gaspard de la Nuit is one of the greatest pieces in piano literature, so I feel honored to have this name… I also played Gaspard de la Nuit in concert. I feel a sense of ownership to this piece more than other people due to my name. Of course, it’s stupid!