Samson François plays Ravel's Concerto for the Left Hand and Grieg's Piano Concerto

Orchestre de l'Opéra de Monte-Carlo, Orchestre national de l'ORTF, Louis Frémaux (conductor)

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Samson François — Pianist

Orchestre National de l'Opéra de Monte-Carlo

Louis Frémaux — Conductor

Program notes

Samson François and Louis Frémaux enthuse the Monte Carlo National Opera Orchestra and its audience with the Concerto for the left hand by Ravel.

You needn't expect just a simple piano lesson from the person who said "It is out of my love for love that I learnt music." An artist to the ends of his sleepless nights, Samson François plays the way he is, in an atypical, rebellious and surprising manner. "Playing piano, how awful! Playing at the piano!," is how he likes to put it.

A lover of jazz and of the drums, of football and night clubs, Samson François started as a disciple of Alfred Cortot and Yvonne Lefébure, then he was a student of Marguerite Long and a winner, at the age of nineteen, of the First Prize in the Long-Thibaud Competition in 1943. His career started with a meteoric ascension, the whole world acclaimed him. "I am a musician because I want to live as many lives as possible." And that's what he did, at the risk of searing his wings.

This film contains a rare document, the only recording that remains of the Grieg Piano Concerto played by Samson François: a concert which was performed in Paris in 1967 with the National Orchestra of the ORTF under the direction of Louis Frémaux. Samson François reinvents this score that springs from under his fingers, urgent and spontaneous.

Three years before, Samson François played one of his favourite works, the Concerto for the left hand written by Ravel for the pianist Paul Wittgenstein who had lost his right arm during the war. Accompanied by Louis Frémaux conducting the Monte Carlo National Opera Orchestra, Samson François sweeps everyone and everything along with him, the orchestra, the conductor, the audience and the piece, with his playing style which imposes itself as an evidence.

Victim of a first heart attack at forty-five, he continues to tempt every devil. Struck down at the age of forty-six, he never experienced decline.


  • Ravel, Piano Concerto, "For the Left hand"
    Filmed at the Salle Pleyel, Paris, 24 October 1964, INA archive.
  • Grieg, Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16
    Filmed at the ORTF, Paris, 27 June 1967, INA archive.

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