French pianist set to make her Boston recital debut

January 24, 2012 at 1:16 pm

By Keith Powers

Lise de la Salle will make her Boston recital debut Saturday night at Jordan Hall for the Celebrity Series.

“It’s schizophrenic to be an idol onstage and then have nobody to talk to when the concert is over.”

Lise de la Salle has been a high-profile presence on the music scene for most of her years, since the 23-year-old French pianist made her Radio France debut at age 9. Yet she  also has a firm grasp on the difficulties of balancing performing and a “normal” life.

That’s not always such an easy thing with an international itinerary as busy as that of the young Parisian, who will make her Boston recital debut Saturday night at Jordan Hall for the Celebrity Series.

She spoke on the phone from Kyoto, where she was performing a Saint-Saens concerto with Roberto Benzi; right after Boston she travels to Montreal, then back across the pond to Lucerne.

“As important as music is for me,” she says, “it helps the music to have something that comes directly from life. Being artistic is normal for me. My grandfather is an artist, my mother is a painter. I love painting and I go to museums whenever I can while I’m traveling.

“But when I’m home, I feel lucky to be with friends, to not plan or do anything special. I’m also lucky that since I’ve traveled so much, I know people wherever I go, and I have friends in lots of places now.”

Unlike many young artists on the career fast track, de la Salle has kept the number of her appearances limited and resisted the urge to pack her calendar. “The number of concerts haven’t increased for me lately—I prefer to play about sixty or sixty-five a year. I have a great deal of respect for my colleagues who play one hundred times a year or more, but that’s not for me. In the past two years the number of concerts has not increased for me, but the quality has. It’s going in a good direction.”

This weekend’s recital marks her second Boston appearance. The first, in November 2009, was a well-received Boston Symphony Orchestra performance of the Saint-Saens Piano Concerto No. 2, with Fabio Luisi, a favorite podium collaborator. “I’ve done so many important concerts with him,” she says of the Italian conductor. “In Boston, and last November my debut at Avery Fisher in New York. I have a fantastic relationship with him as a musician and as a human being. I feel like he knows what I want, that we’re on the same level. We don’t even speak that much in rehearsals—we see and feel music in the same way.”

For Saturday’s recital, de la Salle will open with music of Ravel and Debussy and follow that with two familiar Beethoven sonatas—Moonlight and Les Adieux—after intermission.

“The idea was to play French music in the first half,” she says, “but then to do something unique afterward. It’s my first big Boston solo recital, and I wanted it to have a combination of elements.  I have basic programs, but I always change them, depending on where I’m playing, what CDs have just come out, which country I’m in.

“As far as composers and repertoire are concerned, I don’t want to specialize. Even if I feel closer to Mozart or Beethoven, I still have Liszt and Prokofiev. I play everything from Bach to Messiaen, and I really love it all.

“In the next few years, I would love to do all the Beethoven concertos, maybe in three concerts in a row. But I still have two more to learn, and at the moment there is plenty to do.”

Lise de la Salle performs Ravel, Debussy and Beethoven 8 p.m. Saturday at Jordan Hall. Tickets are available at or by calling 617-482-6661.

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