Bernard d’Ascoli – by Yaltah Menuhin

Bernard d’Ascoli, blind since birth, was born in Provence in the South of France in 1958 and began learning the piano and organ at the age of eleven. In 1974 he was the youngest French Baccalaureat graduate of the year and four years later, at the age of nineteen, he won the First Prize in the Barcelona International Piano Competition.

Bernard d’Ascoli first came to major public attention in 1981 when, following his Third Prize in the Leeds International Piano Competition, he was invited to play in many of the world’s most important music centres.

On Saturday 21 January at Orwell Park School, Bernard d’Ascoli took us back into lands of beauty which we sometimes forget exist – alongside our noisy, hectic and crowded daily reality. He made a trip back in time from Debussy’s vivid originality to Liszt and Chopin, still in their deeply romantic and ethereal world of poetry and love. It is good to return to what is valuable in art, though of another age. The world has changed so much in this last century it helps us to remain still firmly rooted in the so-called past while ready to embrace change.

Bernard’s playing awakened us to all the infinite potential of the piano, beyond human limitations. The instrument lived under his hands as he invited us into his magic world. I am reminded of a lecture I heard recently in which historian Sonu Shamdasani spoke about retrospective prophecies. The road back from Debussy to Liszt and Chopin illustrates it – for Bernard d’Ascoli there is no one between man and God.

Chopin’s 150th Anniversary Piano Recital; Orwell Park School, 23 January 2000