Yves Henry, the young French pianist who performed last night at the Folger Shakespeare Library, approaches his instrument with a mixture of wisdom and control that belie his 24 years. His technique is flawless, but unlike so many of today's gifted young pianists, his playing makes wonderful use of his mind and heart as well as his magical fingers.
Surrounded on three sides by arcs of spectators, Henry--ever so a la mode in his black suit, white shirt and silver bow tie--summoned up the immense concentration necessary to perform in such close quarters and whooshed into a sea of Ravel pieces. "Gaspard de la Nuit," "Alborada del Graciozo" (from "Miroirs") and "Toccata" (from "Le Tombeau de Couperin") provide the listener with a dazzling range of aural images: cascades, avalanches, shimmering pools of sound, Spanish dancers, waterwheels. Henry's feathery runs, machine-gun attacks on certain notes, and ethereal tone left one simultaneously marveling at him and dreaming of Impressionist landscapes.
Schumann is this fellow's specialty. Grand prize winner of the l98l International Competition in the Interpretation of Robert Schumann, Henry's renderings of the composer's "Three Love Songs" and "Vier Nachtstu cke" captured perfectly that dual quality of dense storm and wistful reverie for whichSchumann is so well-known.
And then, as a treat for those hankering after ultraflashy virtuosic display, the pianist delivered Liszt's glissando-and-octave-packed "Paraphrase on the Waltz of Faust by Gounod." Hands reaching out and snapping back in like Venus' flytraps, Henry managed to imbue this showboaty work with great lyricism as well.