Many classical artists have a musical signature: pieces they have played for so long, so often and with such consummate mastery that their name becomes forever associated with the work. What’s more rare is when a musician decides to retire those same compositions that made their career. When it happens, those last performances take on the weight and poignancy of a valediction.
The incomparable Louis Lortie is on a Canadian tour performing the complete Chopin Études and Preludes. He has said it’s likely the last time he’ll ever play those works in their entirety. You have to respect Lortie for saying he wants to quit while he can still do this feat of stamina and athleticism justice. But to hear him on Friday in Southam Hall play these sets not only with all the facility and razzle-dazzle of his youth, but with the added bonus of mature expression and lived-in soul, made his farewell almost tragic.
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