Saturday, July 22, 2023

Journées Musicales de Dieulefit - All-Bach - 07/17/23

Johann Sebastian Bach: Sonata No. 1 in B Minor, BWV 1014 
Johann Sebastian Bach: Sonata No. 2 in A Major, BWV 1015 
Johann Sebastian Bach: Sonata No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1016 
Johann Sebastian Bach: Sonata No. 4 in C Major, BWV 1017 
Johann Sebastian Bach: Sonata No. 5 in F Minor, BWV 1018 
Johann Sebastian Bach: Sonata No. 6 in G Major, BWV 1019
François Daudet: Piano 
Virginie Robillard: Violin

Even if it does not have the charming rusticity of Provence or the dazzling glamour of the French Riviera, I have to say the Drôme region has turned out to be a pretty happening place this summer. After all, this is where, after enjoying two wonderful concerts in the lovely Chapelle Saint Jean outside Crupie, my mom and I almost got to see the sold-out performance of Molière’s L’avare in the courtyard of the Madame de Sévigné’s famous castle in Grignan, if only Mother Nature hadn’t suddenly decided otherwise and unceremoniously threw an all too real show of thunder and lightning our way, effectively canceling a performance for only the second time this season. 
Things got better on Bastille Day though, thanks to a sweet, short and fun cello & viola concert by adventurous local artists Anne-Charlotte Dupas and Chloé Parisot, who contributed their own colorful bouquet of fireworks, including Rebecca Clark, George Handel, Witold Lutoslawski, Paul Hindemith, and my two favorites, a prelude by Shostakovich and Beethoven’s eyeglass duo, to a festive apéritif at the friendly cafe Le Bar & Vous in Dieulefit. 
Still in Dieulefit, the highly popular annual “Journées Musicales de Dieulefit” concert series organized by the Chemins de Pierre association got going last Sunday, and my mom and I decided to go check out the all-Bach program presented by old timers François Daudet and Virginie Robilliard in the cozy, crowded and hot, but still undisputedly welcoming, Église Saint Pierre on Monday evening. Even better, seeing our old friend Ginette in the crowded space and being able to catch up with her during intermission certainly made up for the frustrated confusion created by the fact that our long-ago purchased tickets for assigned seats did not actually have seat numbers on them (Le sigh). 

Bach is generally considered one of the most remarkable composers who has ever lived, and his body of work reputedly contains some of the biggest challenges in classical music. Undaunted, pianist François Daudet, a much in-demand musician as well as the artistic director of the Chemins de Pierre association, and violinist Virginie Robilliard, who was praised for both her “impeccable technique” and her “soul” by our host for the evening, were there to tackle Bach’s six sonatas for piano and violin in one evening, and all I could say was: More power to them! 
The biggest surprise for me as I was listening to those indeed all-around brilliant works on Monday evening, was to notice some unsuspected qualities in them, such as the delicate lyricism of the slow movements and the infectious exuberance of the fast ones, kind of like Bach à litalienne. Although they cannot fail to impress for their relentless complexity, those perfectly balanced little miracles also proved that they have clear structures, gracious melodies, and just sheer beauty, which make them easily accessible to all. 
Of course, we were also lucky to have two prodigiously talented and fiercely committed musicians bringing them to life for us. Daudet and Robillard are used to playing together in Dieulefit every summer, and their long-standing professional relationship no doubt contributed to the blazing performance they delivered on Monday evening. As the violinist, Robillard stood by default in the foreground, where the force and grace she consistently displayed under pressure effortlessly held everybody’s attention. Right behind her, Daudet confidently held his own, making sure to nail his solo star turn when the time had come for it during the last, but not least, sonata. 

And then the question was: What can you play after Bach? Well, more Bach, of course. And that’s just what they did, with a repeat performance of the very first movement that kick-started our evening. And then it was time to leave the hopping church and venture into the real world on a pitch dark and eerily quiet village, energy savings oblige.

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