Thursday, July 29, 2021

Journées Musicales de Dieulefit - Grandes Sonatas pour Cordes et Piano - 07/22/21

César Franck: Sonata in A major for Violin and Piano 
François Daudet: Piano
Virginie Robilliard: Violin  
Maurice Ravel: Tzigane 
François Daudet: Piano 
Virginie Robilliard: Violin 
Sergei Rachmaninov: Sonata in G Minor for Cello and Piano, Op. 19 
François Daudet: Piano 
David Louwerse: Cello 

Last Thursday morning, my mom and I made it to Dieulefit one day later than expected, having spent part of the previous night with Rimski-Korsakov’s unpredictable but so exciting Golden Cockerel in Aix, but ready to take on more summer musical treats, of the chamber music kind this time, starting that very evening with the “Grandes Sonates pour Cordes et Piano” (Big Sonatas for Strings and Piano) concert of the Journées musicales de Dieulefit, a decades-old musical event (“festival” would be too big of a word) which consists of four concerts spread out on two “Musical Days in Dieulefit” and the surrounding areas. 
My mom being a recent volunteer with the small organization, not only had she been tapped to help out, but she had also signed me up for that evening, probably figuring out that it would be a productive way for me to earn my stay. So I found myself directing countless confused concert-goers, who apparently could neither remember the alphabet nor count until 12, to their seats inside the tiny and eventually packed Saint-Pierre Church as I was feeling the lack of sleep slowly but surely getting a hold on me. But hey, after the recent string of late-night performances I had to put up with, I knew I could handle it. 

And I could all the more handle it as our seats were just a few feet away from the “stage”, which allowed us to enjoy a full-immersion experience of what was going on there. As luck would have it, the music, starting with César Franck’s unabashedly luminous Sonata for Violin and Piano, was awfully enjoyable. One of the most popular sonatas in the repertoire, Franck’s little masterpiece simply never ceases to seduce the listener with its gorgeous melodies, rich lyricism, and a general feeling of uncomplicated happiness, even during the turbulences of the allegro. Pianist François Daudet, who also happens to wear the hat of music director, provided a solid background that let regular violinist Virginie Robilliard brightly shine through. 
The second goodie on the program was Maurice Ravel’s wild-at-heart with a French twist Tzigane, a true challenge for any violin player, and a true feast for any violin lover. Robilliard dedicated her performance of it to “freedom”, and sure enough, while she was clearly pulling all the strings (No pun intended) of her blazing performance, there was also an imperceptible sense of freedom in the air, the kind of freedom that an artist in full command of her craft can leverage and share. Not to be outdone by its brief part toward the end, Daudet got into the final race full speed ahead for a hell-raising grand finale
After virtuosic freedom came heart-warming love, as Robilliard decided to take it down a notch and reward our ecstatic ovation with a lovely rendition of Elgar’s “Salut d’amour”. 
Moving on without intermission, long-time regular David Louwerse and his cello took over strings duty for Sergei Rachmaninov’s Sonata in G Minor for Cello and Piano, while the indefatigable François Daudet stayed at the keyboard. Not as widely known as the previous two pieces, our Russian portion of the evening nevertheless contained just about the same generous amount of compelling lyricism, as well as, in true Rachmaninov fashion, bell-like sonorities, bouts of mental anguish and overall mysticism. Giving equal importance to both instruments, the openly Romantic composition assigned each musician a daunting set of technical challenges, which they winningly overcame for a truly beautiful performance. 
So beautiful, in fact, that they decided to repeat the andante as an encore, and therefore concluded the concert on a seriously soulful note.

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