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Face à face: Duos for Violin & Cello

Face à face: Duos for Violin & Cello

by Renaud Capuçon, Gautier Capuçon
Violinist Renaud Capuçon and his cello-playing brother, Gautier, wowed audiences at Martha Argerich's 2002 Lugano Festival, and you can hear why in an incendiary live recording of Mendelssohn's D Minor Trio made with the legendary pianist, as well as in a superb disc of sonatas


Violinist Renaud Capuçon and his cello-playing brother, Gautier, wowed audiences at Martha Argerich's 2002 Lugano Festival, and you can hear why in an incendiary live recording of Mendelssohn's D Minor Trio made with the legendary pianist, as well as in a superb disc of sonatas by Franck and Rachmaninoff. Now Virgin has brought the two brothers together for a remarkable recital of music for violin and cello, including the massive and magnificent Duo (1914) by Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodaly. Kodaly pays homage to Bach with contrapuntal interplay, though the music also has a sharp, tangy folk flavor in which some may hear echoes (and premonitions) of Bartók's style. There is a rapturous quality to the music that the Capuçons convey with considerable intensity. Erwin Schulhoff's Duo (1925) is still more intense. Schullhoff was a student of Reger and Debussy, and his name might be better known today had he not fallen prey to Nazi anti-Semitism (he died in a concentration camp in 1942). His Duo begins serenely but quickly erupts into a passionate discourse, and as the work progresses it seems to explode with ideas and emotions. It's difficult to come to grips with such volatility on first hearing, but the Capuçons are sensitive and eloquent guides, and the result is at once poignant and exhilarating. The disc also includes a world premiere recording of a sonata written for the brothers by the distinguished young composer Eric Tanguy (b. 1968). Tanguy's rhythmically vital, harmonically prickly piece fits perfectly between the Kodaly and the Schulhoff. The final movement, in particular, seems to owe a large debt to the kind of irregular, dancing rhythms that Kodaly and Bartók introduced into the concert hall. Johan Halvorsen's reworking of a Handel passacaglia might seem a strange choice in such company, but its outsize gestures, gutsy writing, and taut construction make it an apt and impressive opener. Ghys and Servais's Variations on God Save the King, on the other hand, is an unabashed virtuoso showpiece, and the Capuçons invest it with all due brilliance and flash. An intelligently conceived and ravishingly played recital.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Zoran Minderovic
Violinist Renaud Capuçon and cellist Gautier Capuçon, both phenomenally talented performers, combine their distinct artistic personalities in these truly scintillating renditions of duos for violin and cello. If Renaud's brilliance is somewhat distant and reserved, Gautier's tone, even when he's busy displaying his mind-boggling virtuosity, strikes the listener as a wonder in itself, an experience of pure sonic bliss. Johan Halvorsen's "Passacaille" after Handel, a veritable catalog of problems and obstacles for string players, may not be great music but one finds great pleasure in the magical, almost symbiotic blending of two sonorities, the performance becoming more interesting than the music itself. Far more demanding, as works of art, are the "Duos" by Kodály and Schulhoff. These are works of extraordinary intellectual and emotional complexity, reflecting the composers' efforts to create meaningful and relevant music in a century (the twentieth) of chaos and destruction. Renaud and Gautier convincingly incorporate the many levels of Kodály's work into a fluid continuum of moods, reflections, and archetypal reminiscences. While emerging from the same Central European spiritual space as Kodály's music, Schulhoff's writing, at least in his "Duo," evinces a sense of nervous urgency, even panic. Played by the Capuçon brothers, this work (more cerebral than Kodály's) approximates, with its shifts from disarming lyricism to manic percussiveness, the energy and timbre of a string quartet. The two soloists are impressively comfortable in the paradoxical, somewhat unsettling universe of Eric Tanguy (born in 1968), whose "Sonate pour violon et violoncello" enigmatically juxtaposes moments of archaic consonance with mysterious iterations emerging from an undefined musical context. In a stupendous display of impossible virtuosity, the Capuçon brothers conclude this disc with "Variations brillante sur God Save the King" with Joseph Ghys and Adrien François Servais -- the astounding Belgian cellist whom Berlioz described as Paganinian.
Courier-Post - Robert Baxter
In Kodaly's haunting Duo, the two seem to inhabit the same body, so naturally but precisely do they articulate the rhythmic pulse and the melodic shape of the music. And they play with a blinding intensity that sweeps the listener into their own musical universe.

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  1. Passacaglia and Sarabande with Variations in G After Handel for violin & viola  - Johan Halvorsen  - Alain Lanceron  - Renaud Capuçon  - Gautier Capuçon
  2. Duo for violin & cello, Op. 7  - Zoltán Kodály  - Alain Lanceron  - Renaud Capuçon  - Gautier Capuçon
  3. Sonata for violin & cello  - Éric Tanguy  - Alain Lanceron  - Renaud Capuçon  - Gautier Capuçon
  4. Duo for violin & cello  - Erwin Schulhoff  - Alain Lanceron  - Renaud Capuçon  - Gautier Capuçon
  5. Variations brillantes et concertantes on "God Save the King", for violin & cello, Op. 38  -  Joseph Ghys / François Servais  - Alain Lanceron  - Renaud Capuçon  - Gautier Capuçon

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