Review, Juan Pérez Floristán, LSO St Luke’s, London by James Ellis

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

The essence of Spain is alive and well at LSO ,St Luke’s in London. We got a real firestarter concert from Juan Pérez Floristán. Fantasiá bética from Manuel de Falla was the native and justified opener. It was terrific and terrifying in equal measure, flamenco used and keeps the kinetic spirit of the dance. Very contemporary, a commission by Rubinstein, de Falla really shows off here and so does Juan.

Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante défunte is the most famous piece in the programme. Inspired by Spanish Baroque, this endearing if somewhat overdone piano miniatures remains a delight. Juan kept it sincere and totally pianissimo. Three Debussy works, two of which were from the Preludes, perhaps captured the essence of Spain out of the non-native composers. Maintaining the evocative perfume usually attributed to Debussy, aside the dance and heat of Espana really did excite her. Juan doing more Debussy would be an event in and of itself. A longing and lingering mood drifted into the space.

Joaquín Turina is a discovery for me and a real find. His Orgía from Danzas fantásticas was another extreme thrill. We don’t near enough from Spanish composers, a work like this proves why we should. Juan thrives in playing his own country’s canon. He is not afraid to dance and scribble around whilst playing. Captivating would be a nice descriptor.

Liszt’s Spanish Rhapsody may lose a feel for the authentic, replaced with virtuosic playing. A delightful melody is heard throughout and is heart warming. Juan scrubs the keys and pounded this justified finale. We were smitten as an audience and an encore of Debussy’s The Girl with the Flaxen Hair was familiar fare and a nice way to end this fine afternoon.

Recorded for future broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

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