French-born pianist Lise de la Salle feels an affinity for all things Russian. She recently finished a three-year residency at the Opernhaus Zürich with a Rachmaninov cycle, and Naïve, her label, will soon release her live recordings of these works. They’ll join her catalog of studio performances of concertos by Prokofiev and Shostakovich.
“The Russian repertoire is close to my heart,” she said in an interview with the French site pianobleu.com. And she will return to that repertoire when she performs Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, under James Conlon, on July 23 at Ravinia.
Also on the all-Russian program are Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 and orchestral selections from Mussorgsky’s opera Khovanshchina: Prelude — Dawn on the Moscow River, Golitsin’s Exile and the Dance of the Persian Slaves. The latter should especially interest her, since she’s a student of opera. “The voice fascinates me,” said de la Salle, who tries to model her pianism on the artistry displayed by three of her favorite sopranos: Maria Callas, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Gundula Janowitz. French composer pianist Yves Nat famously remarked that “a drop of pure music is a point in eternity,” she recalls. “That statement cannot be better illustrated than by the voice, where accuracy, brightness and a diamond-like transparency meet.”
Now 27, de la Salle has been performing professionally since she was 9 years old. A resident of New York City, the pianist tends to perform outside her native France. “It is a mystery that has long intrigued me,” she said in an interview with the site LaCroix.com. “But I have never suffered because I very quickly came to perform in America, my country of musical adoption, and Asia. I found my balance by playing on three continents. “
Next season, de la Salle will make her debut on the Symphony Center Presents Piano Series. For her SCP recital March 6, she has selected works by Bach, Liszt and Ravel.