„I have always loved Bechstein for its deep, subtle and singing voice.“
Abdel Rahman El Bacha
Born in Beirut into a family of musicians, Abdel Rahman El Bacha began studying the piano in 1967 with Zvart Sarkissian, a pupil of Marguerite Long and Jacques February. At 10 years old, he gave his first concert with orchestra. In 1973, Claudio Arrau predicted a great career for him and in 1974, France, the Soviet Union and England offered him a scholarship. He chose France by cultural affinity and entered the National Conservatory of Music in Paris, in the class of Pierre Sancan, where he obtained four First Prizes (piano, chamber music, harmony and counterpoint). Since the dazzling revelation of his talent at the Queen Elisabeth Competition of Belgium at the age of 19, which he won unanimously, he has performed in the most prestigious venues in Europe and the world.
From the Mozarteum in Salzburg to the Théâtre des Champs Elysées in Paris, from the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam to the Herkulessaal in Munich, he plays as a soloist with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchester de Paris, the Orchester National de France, the Philharmonic Orchestra of Radio France, the National Orchestra of Belgium, the Gulbenkian Lisbon Orchestra, the NHK Tokyo, the Orchester de la Suisse Romande….
His discography is important: Abdel Rahman El Bacha received in 1983, from Mrs. Sergueï Prokofiev in person, the Grand Prix of the Charles Cros Academy for the first works of Prokofiev published by Forlane. For this same label, he engraves Bach concertos, Ravel concertos, works by Schumann, Ravel, Schubert and Rachmaninoff. By Chopin, he recorded the Complete Works for solo piano in chronological order as well as the works for piano and orchestra with the Orchestre de Bretagne conducted by Stefan Sanderling.
Among his recent recordings, we can count the complete works for piano by Ravel, the 2 books of the Well-Tempered Clavier by J.S. Bach, the “Impromptus” by Schubert, the “Goyescas” by Granados; albums released by Octavia Records. In 2011, Abdel Rahman El Bacha began a collaboration with the Mirare label by recording works for solo piano by Prokofiev followed in 2013 by the Complete Beethoven's 32 Piano Sonatas, then in 2018 by the recording of his own compositions for piano solo, works now published by Éditions Delatour. The Prokofiev and Beethoven recordings, published on the French label Mirare, were played on a C. Bechstein D 282 concert grand piano.Abdel Rahman El Bacha, who currently teaches at Queen Elisabeth College in Brussels, said in an interview, "I have always loved Bechstein for its deep, subtle and singing voice."
Abdel Rahman El Bacha has had Franco-Lebanese nationality since 1981. In 1998, the Minister of Culture of the French Republic awarded him the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres; in 2002, the President of the Lebanese Republic presented him with the Medal of the Order of Merit, the highest decoration of his native country. In February 2019, the International University of Louvain awarded him an honorary doctorate.
photos © Gérard Proust, Alix Laveau and Agency
Abdel Rahman El Bacha Plays Bach
Abdel Rahman El Bacha is one of the most important pianists of the moment. The winner of the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels has made a name for himself mainly by his recordings of Chopin’s complete solo works. In November 2010, El Bacha recorded the first book of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier on a Bechstein for the Japanese label Octavia, following in the great tradition of Edwin Fischer.
Abdel Rahman El Bacha records Book 2 of the Well-Tempered Clavier
After recording Book 1 of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Well-tempered Clavier in 2011, Abel Rahman El Bacha recently recorded Book 2 under the Japanese label Octavia, again on a C. Bechstein concert grand.A winner of Brussels’ Queen Elisabeth piano contest, El Bacha made a name for himself playing Chopin and Prokofiev and recording all of Beethoven’s sonatas on a Bechstein. He was made “Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres” by the French government in 1998 and awarded the Lebanese “Pour le Mérite” Gold Medal in 2002.El Bacha waited until he was fifty before he started studying The Well-tempered Clavier, a major work by Bach. The maturity of his interpretation, coupled with the transparent voice of the C. Bechstein grand piano, make his new CD a recording of outstanding quality.The instrument, a C. Bechstein D 282 concert grand, was kindly provided by the Japanese Bechstein dealer Euro-Piano.
Abdel Rahman El Bacha Plays Prokofiev
Born in Beirut and now one of France’s most celebrated pianists, Abdel Rahman El Bacha once said, “I have always loved Bechstein for its intimacy, its delicate tone, that singing sound.” Accordingly, he made the right choice in playing a C. Bechstein D 282 concert grand when he recorded Prokofiev’s piano works in La Ferme de Villefavard, a former barn in Limousin converted into a concert venue. The CD (Mirare, 2011) includes the virtuoso Toccata, op. 11; Ten Pieces, op. 12; the Sonata, op. 14; the Sarcasms, op. 17; and the Visions fugitives, op. 22 – and was highly appreciated by the classical music press. One reason is surely the singing, colourful Bechstein sound.
Abdel Rahman El Bacha Plays Beethoven
A crowning achievement: Abdel Rahman El Bacha records Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas. The internationally acclaimed pianist opted for a C. Bechstein D 282 concert grand for the recordings as it “marries the best of the Bechstein tradition with a distinct power and balance in the sound”.
When Abdel Rahman El Bacha chose a new C. Bechstein D 282 concert grand, he followed in Artur Schnabel’s footsteps, who became the first pianist ever to record Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas between 1932 and 1935 on the Bechstein at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London. In an interview with journalist Sylviane Falcinelli, the great pianist stated: “The touch of a Bechstein is not comparable to that of any other grand. […] The action responds directly and still allows you to shape the sound while you’re pressing the key. […] What also particularly fascinates me is the instrument’s broad sound range in all registers. […] This piano of the next generation marries the best of the Bechstein tradition with a distinct power and balance in the sound.
”Recording all thirty-two piano sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven is a major challenge for any pianist – A challenge that El Bacha has now attempted twice. Whereas the first recording took him around ten years, however, the second only lasted from April 2012 to January 2013. It was performed at La Ferme de Villefavard in the French region of Limousin, on a C. Bechstein D 282 that was entrusted to the legendary concert technician Denijs de Winter. The excellent sound of the recording is also the result of the good acoustics of the studio, a former barn converted by architect Gilles Ebersolt with the aid of acoustician Albert Yaying Xu, whose most famous projects include the Cité de la Musique in Paris, the opera house in Beijing and the Philharmonic Hall in Luxembourg.
In this ground-breaking CD package, Abdel Rahman El Bacha explores the full tonal wealth of the C. Bechstein grand and renders every last detail of the sonatas without forcing the tempos or dynamics. The fact that he recorded two sonatas at a time and, if need be, repeated both pieces integrally instead of simply replacing individual bars or tones, provides the recording with a great deal of homogeneity. El Bacha stated: “I seek to preserve that electric excitement by recording whole sonatas in a single take. This is the challenge that Beethoven puts on his interpreters and I accept it. If you don’t take it up, you lose the musical thread, the very intention of the composer. It’s worth sharing this experience with him.”Photos: Sylviane Falcinelli