All powerhouse pianists have that special something that makes them standout. Imagine the boldest, most intense glass of French oak chardonnay. The taste is buttery, oak-y, and punches your face with a little bit of citrus. The sound that comes out of Lise de la Salle’s fingertips is not crisp, clean, light, or airy like you would expect from a petite mademoiselle — it’s just like that expensive glass of aged chardonnay: bold, buttery, and intense.
During her November 8 performance at the Music Academy of the West, de la Salle was laser focused on the keyboard, pumping out an awe-inspiring orchestral sound. She hypnotized the audience with her intensity and thunderbolt crab-hand fortissimo. She created a telepathic emotional link, making it easy to forget what she was playing. Was it Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in C-minor? Ravel? Debussy’s Selections from the Préludes? Brahms’s Handel variations? Whatever she played, she always had a sophisticated approach to phrasing that broke up the rubato in diminishing pieces throughout the musical paragraph, rather then piling it up on a climactic apex. De la Salle exuded an elegance and conviction in her playing, reminding one of the great Beethoven rehearsing in his private laboratory.
Her cinematic rendition of Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit was a hypnotizing display of dreamlike tone; every arpeggio, cross-handed technique, run, and glissando had a creamy texture to it. Her fingers always digging into the keys, de la Salle was extremely effective in achieving her signature sound. Her encore of one of Bach’s chorales played à la Ravel was alone worth the price of admission.