Florent Boffard spent eleven years as one of the piano soloists with the Ensemble intercontemporain. The artist has been familiar with new and the very newest music from his youth, having joined Yvonne Loriod’s piano school at the age of twelve. In both his concerts and recordings he consistently creates innovative combinations between new music and traditional works in order to enable listeners to appreciate the living historical resonances within contemporary composition on the one hand and perhaps even unheard aspects in established compositions on the other.
His solo matinee is dedicated to the concept of virtuosity, in which technical perfection becomes a means of intense expression, challenging communication and visionary suggestion. In this sense both composer and performers work as virtuosi. The concert’s central work is George Benjamin’s Shadowlines, six piano pieces that together form a great arc. Technically they are composed as strict canons escalating towards the fourth and fifth (and longest) pieces. In their effects they run through a series of moods, emphasised by their subtle technique. The title has a double meaning: describing the canon in which one voice is always the slightly distorted shadow of another, but also the shadows cast by history, the magnificent canons by composers from Josquin des Préz and Johann Sebastian Bach to Anton Webern.
However, Boffard does not explore historical perspectives from the point of view of compositional technique but from the combination of pianistic brilliance and intensity in the creation of musical characters. Scarlatti’s “teasers” run through his familiar sonatas with dissonant clusters that sound like Spanish guitars, Kurtág would often make the miniatures of his Jatékok (Games) the core for larger compositions, but here they are placed in relation to other works; Debussy’s Images are masterpieces of pianistic suggestion as are the pieces in the programme by Chopin and Messiaen. Alexander Scriabin accompanied his F sharp major Sonata with a poem about the flight of the soul into the cosmic sea of light.