MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Double Entendre

Martha Argerich and her friend violinist Renaud Capuçon are finding an accommodation to coronavirus spacing restrictions that is very generous: by playing the same program twice, back-to-back, as in tonight’s recital at Victoria Hall in Geneva.

The complete program: Beethoven/Sonata No. 8 in G major, Op. 30, no 3 and the Franck Violin Sonata.

I’d love to hear how their takes on César Franck’s great sonata compare between the 6.30 and 9pm concerts. This is one of the possible contenders Proust had in mind as his model for the Sonata for Piano and Violin by composer Vinteuil (no first name) in À la recherche du temps perdu — see “La Sonate pour piano et violon” de Vinteuil: Réflexion sur un intitulé inhabituel” by Jean-David Jumeau-Lafond in the Bulletin Marcel Proust:

Excerpt from Swann’s Way:

So Swann was not mistaken in believing that the phrase of the sonata did, really, exist. Human as it was from this point of view, it belonged, none the less, to an order of supernatural creatures whom we have never seen, but whom, in spite of that, we recognize and acclaim with rapture when some explorer of the unseen contrives to coax one forth, to bring it down from that divine world to which he has access to shine for a brief moment in the firmament of ours. This was what Vinteuil had done for the little phrase. Swann felt that the composer had been content (with the musical instruments at his disposal) to draw aside its veil, to make it visible, following and respecting its outlines with a hand so loving, so prudent, so delicate and so sure, that the sound altered at every moment, blunting itself to indicate a shadow, springing back into life when it must follow the curve of some more bold projection. And one proof that Swann was not mistaken when he believed in the real existence of this phrase, was that anyone with an ear at all delicate for music would at once have detected the imposture had Vinteuil, endowed with less power to see and to render its forms, sought to dissemble (by adding a line, here and there, of his own invention) the dimness of his vision or the feebleness of his hand.

The phrase had disappeared. Swann knew that it would come again at the end of the last movement, after a long passage which Mme. Verdurin’s pianist always ‘skipped.’ There were in this passage some admirable ideas which Swann had not distinguished on first hearing the sonata, and which he now perceived, as if they had, in the cloakroom of his memory, divested themselves of their uniform disguise of novelty. Swann listened to all the scattered themes which entered into the composition of the phrase, as its premises enter into the inevitable conclusion of a syllogism; he was assisting at the mystery of its birth. “Audacity,” he exclaimed to himself, “as inspired, perhaps, as a Lavoisier’s or an Ampere’s, the audacity of a Vinteuil making experiment, discovering the secret laws that govern an unknown force, driving across a region unexplored towards the one possible goal the invisible team in which he has placed his trust and which he never may discern!” How charming the dialogue which Swann now heard between piano and violin, at the beginning of the last passage. The suppression of human speech, so far from letting fancy reign there uncontrolled (as one might have thought), had eliminated it altogether. Never was spoken language of such inflexible necessity, never had it known questions so pertinent, such obvious replies. At first the piano complained alone, like a bird deserted by its mate; the violin heard and answered it, as from a neighbouring tree. It was as at the first beginning of the world, as if there were not yet but these twain upon the earth, or rather in this world closed against all the rest, so fashioned by the logic of its creator that in it there should never be any but themselves; the world of this sonata….

Filed under: COVID-19 Era, Martha Argerich, music news, Renaud Capuçon

Guy Braunstein and Martha Argerich

Tonight at Pierre Boulez Saal, Guy Braunstein and Martha Argerich perform a sold-out program of Schumann, Prokofiev, and Franck. My program essay is available here. (It’s their first time collaborating as a duo, so the clip above is of Argerich with Gidon Kremer — not exactly a bad compromise — in Schumann’s A minor Violin Sonata.)

Filed under: César Franck, Martha Argerich, Pierre Boulez Saal, Prokofiev, Schumann

Times Two

One-half at least of the line-up from last night’s piano duo recital at the new Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin. Playing on his custom-made (and, for the occasion, uncovered) Steinways, Daniel Barenboim and Martha Argerich gave the following program:

MOZART/ Sonata in D Major K. 448 (375a) for Two Pianos
Sonata in F Major K. 497 for Piano Four Hands
SCHUMANN/Studies for Pedal Piano Op. 56 / Arrangement for Two Pianos by Claude Debussy
LISZT/Réminiscences de «Don Juan» de Mozart S 418

Plus, as encores, Debussy’s Lindaraja and “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker.

Filed under: Daniel Barenboim, Martha Argerich, Pierre Boulez Saal

Martha Argerich

I finally had my first chance to see the fabled Martha Argerich live at last night’s Lucerne Festival concert — the second of two concerts at the Summer Festival by Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

Even in such a decided non-masterpiece as Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1, she’s the real thing, one of the most magnetic musical personalities I’ve encountered.

As a generous encore, she and Barenboim sat together at the keyboard to play a Schubert’s piano duo: the Rondo in A major, D 951.

Filed under: Daniel Barenboim, Martha Argerich, pianists

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