Its title borrowed from The Hunchback of Notre Dameby Victor Hugo, Spira, Spera(Breathe, Hope) was prompted by the near-catastrophic fire in the historic Parisian cathedral in 2019. Remembering childhood visits there to hear performances of Bach on its venerable Cavaillé-Coll organ, Emmanuel Despax responded with this artfully sequenced, eloquently dispatched compendium of transcriptions for piano.

Emmanuel Despax Spira, Spera

If global events have somewhat overshadowed the project’s intended tribute, Despax nonetheless provides a recital of becoming grace and gravity that perfectly illustrates his observation that in Bach’s music one finds “no chaos, just beauty”. In that respect, it offers welcome distraction from, and succour for, a time under seemingly endless physical and psychic siege. There’s something of the comforting contrariness of an Irish wake here in a program that mingles joy with sorrow...