Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Festival des écrivains du sud - L'écriture, c'est la vie ! - 06/27/21

Francis Poulenc: Trio for oboe, bassoon and piano, FP 43
Johannes Brahms: Horn trio, Op. 40
Georges Enescu: Légende
Robert Schumann: Fantasiestücke for cello and piano, Op. 73
Rober Boutry : Fanfare pour des temps légendaires pour trois trompettes
Vincent d’Indy: Trio for clarinet, cello and Piano Op. 29

So… where was I? Not even close to where I am now, that’s for sure.
Isn’t it amazing what a difference a global pandemic, a bunch of lockdowns, an intercontinental move and a new job can make! And to think it is not quite over just yet.
When I left Carnegie Hall on the evening of March 8, 2020, happily dazzled for the third time in four days by the combined virtuosic powers of Emmanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos and Yo-Yo Maand Beethoven, of courselittle did I suspect that it would be the last live performance I would attend in one year, three months and nineteen days. But then again, who’s counting?
Needless to say, reality quickly caught up with me and the rest of the world, and the period of time between then and now rapidly became a weird mix of inertia, frustration, turmoil and hope, although thankfully never personal tragedy.
Moreover, having a natural aversion to canned music and a fickle Internet connection of late essentially meant that, beside successfully streaming the Metropolitan Opera’s At-Home Gala live over a year ago—For the record, not (just) because, as my friend Dawn kept on pointing out, I am an incorrigible voyeurand stumbling across a few buskers here and there, those were exceptionally quiet 1000+ days (and nights).
And then, last Sunday evening, after having ended a glorious decade in New York City and spent the last seven months in Aix-en-Provence, I finally sat down in the mostly packed (so much for social distancing) outdoors square of the so cool Méjanes Public Library (a former matches’ factory, of all things) of Provence’s historic capital with my friend Jacqueline for (Gasp!) a live—and free—concert.
The long-overdue treat was the musical performance that would be closing the three-day Festival des Écrivains du Sud (Festival of Southern Writers) whose focus this year was “L’écriture, c’est la vie !” (Writing is life. How French!)
The young musicians came from the nearby Institut d’Enseignement Supérieur de la Musique – Europe et Méditerranée (Institute of Higher Music Studies – Europe et Mediterranean) and the one-hour (not including the unavoidable opening speeches) intermission-free program was an interesting smorgasbord of pieces crisscrossing time and space. Not that we were going to be picky anyway. As they say, beggars cannot be choosers.
As if to set a joyful tone for this eagerly awaited occasion, Francis Poulenc’s Trio for oboe, bassoon and piano, kicked things off with an irresistibly playful presto, which was readily followed by an organically soulful andante. Although they had to contend with the daunting honor of opening the concert and the stress of having their sheet music occasionally swept by a mischievous wind, Chloé Silvestri, Victor Cariou and Adrien Avezard overcame all those challenges and more with plenty of flair and, well, gusto.
Seeing my beloved Brahms in the playlist obviously made the program extra special for me. Even better, although only one movement was mentioned on the flyer, we got to enjoyed both the adagio mesto and the allegro con brio of his Horn trio. That would be our only opportunity to hear the unabashedly beautiful sound of the violin that evening, and by design or not Giulia Deschamps made sure it would be a truly memorable one. Not to be outdone, Caroline Roussel and Marianne Billaud also brilliantly contributed to the highly melodic piece.
Moldovia-born and French-educated Georges Enescu is well-known for his original style, as his trumpet-starring composition Légende (Legend) clearly attests. And with committed performers such as Marine Mercier Landry and Noémie Versaeilie, the experience could not have been more thrilling. Seriously, who knew the trumpet was so versatile?
Back to the traditional repertoire, the three individual components of Robert Schumann’s Fantasiestücke may have been originally written for clarinet and piano, but on Sunday it was their version for cello and piano that allowed the winning duo of Naïlis Potet and Bernardo Virgen Barragan to express the engaging vignettes’ wide range of moods all the way to the exuberant finale.
French pianist, conductor and composer Roger Boutry’s Fanfare pour des temps légendaires pour trois trompettes had the unusual advantage of gathering together three remarkable trumpetists, in this case Marine Mercier Landry, Pierrot Buliard and Guillaume Barbe, for a piece that had so many seemingly false starts that even the surrounding cicadas got tired of it and decided to loudly show everybody how a coherent composition is done. So there.
Vincent d’Indy got to close our musical evening with the overture of his attractive Trio for clarinet, cello and piano. A contemporary of Debussy, he wrote a multifaceted work that would have made his more famous fellow impressionist French composer proud. And that’s not the glowing performance of it by Yvan Guerra, Yvane Denis and Lٞéa Garnier that would have showed them otherwise.

Before we knew it, the hour had passed and we were done, and already ready for more. So bring it on already.