James will perform the works as part of his own-curated Debussy festival at St. Cecilia's, Edinburgh, on Sat 1 & Sun 2 December 2018.
St. Cecilia's Hall, Edinburgh
Sat 1 & Sun 2 December 2018
10.30am - 7pm
James Willshire marks the 100th anniversary of Claude Debussy’s death curating the programme for a two-day Debussy Festival at St Cecilia’s in Edinburgh. The event is part of the pianist’s involvement in the wider Debussy 2018 project, which has seen him presenting Debussy’s piano solo repertoire throughout the year in Glasgow and Edinburgh, as well as in the Leeds International Concert Season and at Chetham’s School of Music.
Taking place at the Scottish capital’s newly refurbished Georgian St Cecilia’s Hall– the country’s oldest purpose-built concert hall as part of the Edinburgh’s University –this weekend, on Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 December, the Debussy Festival is devoted to the French composer’s works for solo piano, piano and voice, and chamber ensemble. The programme includes 10 events, featuring 8 recitals and 2 pre-performance talks.
At the heart of the Festival is a very rare condensed performance of Debussy’s complete piano solo works, with Willshire embarking on an epic musical journey lasting more than five hours over five recitals during the weekend. The Debussy piano solo cycle includes early works, written by the composer in his twenties, all the way to pieces belonging to the late years of his life, from Deux Arabesques and Valse Romantique, to the technically demanding Etudes.
The other sections of the Festival programme highlight Willshire’s interest in exploring Debussy’s use of the piano when in ensemble with other musical elements. In one concert only on Sunday afternoon, fellow British pianist, chamber music specialist, and frequent Willshire collaborator in duo, Philippa Harrison joins forces with Edinburgh Quartet ensemble member Mark Bailey(cello), and Chinese-born, Glasgow-based violinist Gongbo Jiang to present a concert of the composer’s chamber music. Completing the musical offering of the Festival,two recitals showcase Debussy’s repertoire for piano and voice as performed by up-and-coming Scottish and Scottish-based talents: renowned recitalist and Edinburgh’s St Mary’s Music School Head of Keyboard John Cameron accompanies soprano Jessica Leary– a recent participant of the Scottish Opera’s Pop-Up Tour 2018; mezzo-soprano/ contralto Judy Brown, one of the voices of choice of the Monteverdi Choir; dramatic soprano and Paisley community Opera trustee Jemma Brown; and soprano Kimberley Dove.
Two pre-performance talks complete the programme: on Saturday, University of Glasgow’s Reader in Music Dr David Code discusses Debussy’s use of the musical form of the Etude; on Sunday, James Willshire himself, before launching into the final solo piano recital, gives a performer’s insight into the epic cycle just presented over the two days.