Gautier Capuçon / Renaud Capuçon

Face à face: Duos for Violin & Cello

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Violinist Renaud Capuçon and cellist Gautier Capuçon, both phenomenally talented performers, combine their distinct artistic personalities in these truly scintillating renditions of duos for violin and cello. If Renaud's brilliance is somewhat distant and reserved, Gautier's tone, even when he's busy displaying his mind-boggling virtuosity, strikes the listener as a wonder in itself, an experience of pure sonic bliss. Johan Halvorsen's Passacaille after Handel, a veritable catalog of problems and obstacles for string players, may not be great music but one finds great pleasure in the magical, almost symbiotic blending of two sonorities, the performance becoming more interesting than the music itself. Far more demanding, as works of art, are the Duos by Kodály and Schulhoff. These are works of extraordinary intellectual and emotional complexity, reflecting the composers' efforts to create meaningful and relevant music in a century (the twentieth) of chaos and destruction. Renaud and Gautier convincingly incorporate the many levels of Kodály's work into a fluid continuum of moods, reflections, and archetypal reminiscences. While emerging from the same Central European spiritual space as Kodály's music, Schulhoff's writing, at least in his Duo, evinces a sense of nervous urgency, even panic. Played by the Capuçon brothers, this work (more cerebral than Kodály's) approximates, with its shifts from disarming lyricism to manic percussiveness, the energy and timbre of a string quartet. The two soloists are impressively comfortable in the paradoxical, somewhat unsettling universe of Eric Tanguy (born in 1968), whose Sonate pour violon et violoncello enigmatically juxtaposes moments of archaic consonance with mysterious iterations emerging from an undefined musical context. In a stupendous display of impossible virtuosity, the Capuçon brothers conclude this disc with Variations brillante sur "God Save the King" with Joseph Ghys and Adrien François Servais -- the astounding Belgian cellist whom Berlioz described as Paganinian.

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