Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Journées Musicales de Dieulefit - Strauss & Schubert - 07/18/23

Richard Strauss: Sonata for Cello and Piano in F Major, Opus 6 
Franz Schubert: Piano Trio No. 2 in E-flat Major for Piano, Violin, and Cello, D. 929 (Opus 100) 
François Daudet: Piano 
David Louwerse: Cello 
Virginie Robillard: Violin 

Twenty-four hours after indulging in a blazing performance of Baroque masterpieces on Monday, my mom and I were back in Dieulefit’s intimate and packed  ̶  which, of course, also meant sweltering  ̶  Église Saint-Pierre for the third and last concert of the village’s annual mini festival “Journées Musicales de Dieulefit”, this time to enjoy a Romantic evening with Richard Strauss and Franz Schubert courtesy of the mighty trio of François Daudet, David Louwerse and Virginie Robillard. As Daudet himself had pointed out to us earlier, this would be a less brainy, but still challenging endeavor. 
And that’s how on Tuesday evening we found ourselves in the same seats, after making sure to have the proper information this time, amidst apparently much of the same audience, at the same ungodly hour of 9:00 P.M. This time, however, we caught a glimpse of our friend Michèle, understandably only too happy to get a break from preparing her big moving-out sale, before meeting her for lunch the next day to compare notes. Great minds do think alike. 

Richard Strauss being one of my favorite composers, I was excited about checking out one of his works in the superior company of François Daudet and his long-time companion in music, cellist extraordinaire David Louwerse. Written when Strauss was still a teenager, his Sonata for Cello and Piano is a full and delectable immersion in Late Romanticism, freely overflowing with big emotions, intense lyricism and carefree exuberance. One is only young once! The three movements were masterly put together and just as masterly executed, but I must tip my hat off to the second one whose glowing beauty was simply magical. 
After the well-deserved intermission, during which we enjoyed peace and quiet and space inside while most people were outside, Virginie Robillard joined her two frequent partners for Schubert’s voluptuously sprawling Piano Trio No. 2, which the composer wrapped up shortly before his untimely death. Clocking in at roughly 50 minutes, the piece requires not only technical skills and emotional commitment, but plenty of stamina as well. On Tuesday night, our three musicians had it all, and readily delivered an exceptionally well-balanced and all-around gorgeous performance. 
That said, I will admit that the cello did stand out whenever the stunning main theme of the second movement, based on a Swedish folk song of all things, appeared. The haunting melody is in fact familiar to many unsuspecting people since, being a certified earworm, it has incidentally popped up countless times in popular culture over the decades, including in films as diverse as Barry Lindon, The Hunger and The Pianist. And sure enough, after hearing Louwerse’s magnificent take on it on Tuesday, never mind the stubbornly sticky strings he had to put up with, I had it stuck in my head for the rest of the week, with all my gratitude. 

As we were all basking in a heavenly romantic mood while vigorously asking for more, the musicians came back for a most appropriate encore: The slow movement of Felix Mendelssohn's Piano Trio No. 1, which concluded the concert, and the festival, on a truly lovely note.

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