Still my two favorite instruments - Capucon and Wang in recital

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Still my two favorite instruments - Capucon and Wang in recital

Post by Ricordanza » Thu Apr 11, 2019 5:17 pm

Eleven years ago, I attended my first cello and piano recital (with cellist Jan Vogler and pianist Louis Lortie) and entitled my review “My Two Favorite Instruments.” I cannot explain why it took me so long to attend another cello and piano recital, but the recital presented by cellist Gautier Capuçon and pianist Yuja Wang on Monday evening, April 8, was certainly worth the wait.

I’ve followed the career of Yuja Wang since her student days at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Now, of course, she’s one of the most acclaimed classical musicians. By contrast, I had never heard of Gautier Capuçon before seeing his name on the announcement for this concert. A look at his bio, however, indicates that this 37-year-old French-born cellist has a well-established concert and recording career. This recital confirmed his great gift for the instrument. Yuja’s reputation as a soloist is well established, but it was no surprise (to me) that she showed herself to be a highly capable chamber music collaborator.

They began the concert with Chopin’s Sonata in G Minor, Op. 65, one of his last compositions. The first of the four movements is the longest of the piece and, if I can be presumptuous enough to criticize Chopin, a little overlong. The writing for the cello and piano in this movement is richly textured, but lacks the distinctive musical moments we come to expect from Chopin. But the other three movements—a bright Scherzo, a melodious Largo, and a tarantella-like Finale—are delightful.

It was clear from the performance of this piece and the ones that followed that Capuçon is a master of his instrument. His tone is gorgeous in all registers, undoubtedly enhanced by the rich sounds of his 300-year-old Venetian instrument. And what else can I say about Yuja? Her playing shines throughout every piece.

Chopin’s Introduction and Polonaise Brilliante, Op. 3, is one of his earliest published works and is decidedly lighter and less complex than the Sonata. Essentially, it’s a showpiece for the two instruments and these two musicians delivered a sparkling performance.

One of my favorite works in the chamber music repertoire is Cesar Franck’s Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano. There are few works that can surpass this Sonata for its stream of memorable themes and the passionate interplay between the two instruments. These performers presented the transcription for cello and piano by Franck’s colleague, the cellist Jules Delsart. The result is a piece that sounds as if it had originally been written for these two instruments. A great piece of music performed with intensity and commitment—what more could I ask?

Capuçon and Wang closed the evening with two contrasting encores. The first was one of the most famous—and beautiful—works for cello: “The Swan” from Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saens. The second was the intense, dramatic and virtuosic “Le Grand Tango” by the Argentine composer, Astor Piazzolla. The ovation by the sold-out audience in the Perelman Theater was overwhelming.

A couple observations about this concert. In keeping with her reputation as a 21st Century musician (and despite the probable objections of the Page Turners Union), Yuja uses an iPad for her music, with a pedal switch to turn the (virtual) pages. Capuçon, on the other hand, uses old-fashioned paper scores. And since Yuja’s concert outfits have often been the subject of discussion and debate, I will inform readers who are interested that she did NOT wear a mini-dress or other revealing garb. Rather, she wore a full-length (albeit form-fitting) yellow gown. She looked smashing.

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