He strives to make sure his performances never sink into such blandness. “For me, it’s all about intensity,” he said. “If we are not working on this, then why play music?”
Chicago audiences will have a chance to judge Debargue’s playing for themselves when he makes his debut Nov. 19 on the Symphony Center Presents’ Piano Series. But they won’t be able to hear his take on any French works, because his program is devoted to Schubert’s Sonatas in A Minor, D. 784 and A Major, D. 664, and Szymanowski’s Sonata No. 2 in A Major, Op. 21.
While the pianist does sometimes perform the music of his homeland, he feels in no way beholden to it. “When I think about the repertoire, I don’t think at all about the repertoire of my country and I am not specialized in any composer,” he said. “What attracts me are the pieces. For example, I can be interested in a piece of Ravel but not Ravel as a composer.”
He calls Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit, a 1908 solo suite of piano works, “something special” within the composer’s catalog. Indeed, it was one of the works that Debargue performed during the Tchaikovsky competition, gaining him considerable attention among audiences and followers online. “When I get passionate and fascinated by a score,” he said, “then it’s for life.”