Mélanie Bracale: Piano
Frédéric Lagarde: Cello
As summer is slowly but surely coming to an end, the time has come for Aix-en-Provence’s 48th Musique dans la Rue (Music in the Streets) festival, which means that from August 20 through 28, a wide range of free 30-minute performances, from chamber music and jazz to world music and marching bands, not to mention sing-alongs of all kinds, among others, are going to spring up in various venues around town for everybody to enjoy.
I got my first taste of it last Saturday when, after spending pretty much all day slaving in front of my computer, I decided to treat myself to Felix Mendelssohn’s Cello Sonata No. 2 in the cloister of the 17th-century Chapelle des Oblats, the former Carmelite convent at the top of cours Mirabeau. And that’s how, after having carefully walked through the proselytizing hallway, I quickly found an excellent seat in the lovely open space, which was filling up fast with music lovers and a cool breeze.
The two musicians were cellist Frédéric Lagarde, whose impressive résumé ends for now with his current teaching job at the Conservatoire d’Aix-en-Provence, and his frequent musical partner Mélanie Bracale, whose shorter but already notable résumé is about to expand with a stint at no less than the prestigious Conservatoire de Paris. This sterling company, along with the sure value that is Mendelssohn, was promising a short but memorable musical evening, never mind the loud rock music that was coming out from a window nearby. It eventually had to surrender to Mendelssohn’s relentless counter-assault.
Mendelssohn’s second sonata is everything one would expect from the Classical-Romantic German composer, including a remarkable balance between the two instruments, intense lyricism, beautiful colors, long singing lines and light-hearted sparks. The allegedly Bach-inspired Adagio, in particular, is a major feat of contrasts by superbly combining the streams of choral-like arpeggios of the piano and the dramatic star turn of the cello to eventually reach a truly happy ending.
Remaining staunchly focused on the task and impervious to outside distractions, both musicians effortlessly joined their expert forces not only to do justice to the naturally engaging score, but also to share the pure pleasure of playing it with the rest of us, all the way to the infectiously exuberant finale. Suffice it to say, they mightily succeeded.