It was the first professional concert I’d been to and certainly the first time I’d heard live professional piano playing. The Cadogan Hall where it took place was lovely and not so big that you were too far away from the performers. Katia and Marielle Labeque were fascinating to watch as they communicated across at least nine foot of grand piano. Their eye contact and nods were discreet and they played in complete unison.

The performance began with ‘En Blanc et Noir’ by Debussy played on two separate pianos. The music was frequently blurred and discordant with a depressive confused angst going on, this may have been a reflection of Debussy’s feelings at the outbreak of world war I. Yet it was still littered with colourful surprises of sweetness. It was very, very good. Katia and Marielle played as one, so much so it was difficult to tell who was playing what. There was a lot of complex, fast finger work which they played with absolute precision. During the piece they dropped from loud and harsh playing to a perfectly controlled pianissimo that was utterly satisfying.

The following piece was the highlight of my evening, Schubert’s ’Fantasia in F minor’, played on one piano. The first melody was exquisitely beautiful and played with such anguish. This was contrasted by the second theme which was rhythmical, muscular and hefty, filled with a sorrow, despondency, and hopelessness that was never completely lifted throughout the whole piece. The third theme was faster and lively but gave a sense of forced jollity. The playing was so expressive. The way the Labeque sisters touched the keys to produce such a sound was amazing. Not only did they convey these feelings through the music but also through their body language as they played. They conveyed it so well that when they had stopped playing there was a moment of absolute silence before the applause began, they had gripped their audience, including me, from the start.

The evening ended with two pieces by Ravel. Ravel was an impressionist and perfectionist which really comes out in his music, especially these two pieces which convey a story. Though these pieces were written as children’s music they contain an element of sorrow throughout. I found Ravel’s music didn’t have the same ‘soul’ as Schubert and Debussy but his music is none the less very clever and enjoyable. Three highlights for me were firstly the ‘conversation of Beauty and the Beast‘. It starts with sweet melodious notes at the top of the piano representing Beauty (Belle) which are then answered by deeper, lower notes representing the Beast. Secondly the third section ‘Laideronette, Imperatrice des Pagodes’ which was a lot of fun, full staccato notes played on a pentatonic (five note) scale. And then lastly the amazing end in ‘the fairy garden’ with some phenomenal glissandos ( this is where the back of the fingers are dragged up or down the piano in a run of notes) played very fast and very close together. The first Ravel piece ‘Ma Mere L’Oye’ was played on one piano and the second piece ‘Rapsodie Espagnole’ was played on two pianos. The Labeque sisters retained their perfection and exquisite touch till the end.

There was such an explosive encore that the Labeque sisters returned to perform an extra piece: ‘Tropical Jam’ by Michel Camilo. They played this Jazz piece with such gusto that I thought the livelier of the two would fall off her piano stool for sure. It was a vibrant ending to a phenomenal evening that absolutely rocked. There is nothing that compares to hearing classical music live. A CD recording just doesn’t do it. Something gets lost, the atmosphere is just not the same. I recommend that anyone who doesn’t go to classical music concerts get started because they’re absolutely amazing.

Leah Taylor Age 16

Leah attended a performance of the Labèque sisters at the Cadogan Hall on 24th April 2008