The Verbier Festival (July 15-31) is in full swing in Valais. Chamber music has always been one of the strengths of the Festival, but this year, judging by the four concerts we attended, the superiority of the small formation is undeniably confirmed.
Daniel Lozakovich and Alexandre Kantorow: two giants
By adding their age, Daniel Lozakovich and Alexander Kantorow are not even fifty years old. And yet, they are unquestionably two of the greatest performers we can hear today. They gave, on the evening of July 19 at the Church, three great sonatas for violin and piano from the repertoire: that of Franck, the second by Brahms and the first by Schumann. What happens when these two very strong musical personalities play together? Electricity passes, sparks crackle, then a blade of current arrives which takes us away; we feel tremors, we quiver at the magic and beauty created by the two young giants. Their commitment is such that at no time can we escape their vision; we are forced to follow the path they take to take us to their universe. This land is full of strangers, we don’t know exactly what they will show us, but we can fully trust them. The surprises they have in store for us always allow us to discover even more of the works. For example, for Franck, the pianist brings out certain notes in the right hand, where you don’t expect them; in Brahms, while maintaining the density of the words, they invite us to free ourselves from the chasms, sometimes desperate, of the feelings that the composer entrusts in the works. At the beginning of Schumann, swells of notes, like the comings and goings of ocean waves, in which they embark us… The 21-year-old violinist has a surprising variation of sounds and expressions, capable of passing into a fraction of a second from transparent treble to abyssal bass. The 25-year-old pianist shows a bewildering concentration, literally embodying the music… or does the music take over his person? Still, at the end of the concert, a groan resembling the rumbling of the earth is heard, before the “Bravos! are unleashed everywhere, transforming the Church of Verbier into a temple of musical ecstasy, of exaltation of artistic desire.
Shocking trio: Bouchkov-Fung-Fujita
The violinist Mark Bouchkovcellist Zlatomir Fung and the pianist Mao Fujita inaugurate, on the morning of July 20, the series of three concerts “Unpublished Encounters” devoted to chamber music. They connect the Trio from Maurice Ravel to that of Anton Arenski with incredible intensity. Never has an interpretation revealed so much the cyclical construction of Ravel’s work. They highlight the psychological depth of the composer from the moment he wrote this piece, just before going to war. The violence of the sense of urgency is clearly expressed, making the piece extremely poignant. The “Panthoum” is played at a well-restrained tempo, marking each beat, even each note, punctually. An exhilarating momentum runs through the whole work, just as in the Trio of Arensky. Through the four movements written by the Russian composer, the three musicians tell the story of a life where memories follow one after another. Despair and the glimmer of hope come together, these two feelings intertwining subtly, expressed by a galvanizing violin, a deep cello and a captivating piano, to strike the sensitive cord of each one. As bis, they propose the slow movement of the Trio in D minor by Mendelssohn, expressed on the same vision: memory of a deep experience.
Two other generations of chamber musicians
Alongside these young musicians, veterans set an example. Augustin Dumay and Sergey Babayan impose themselves with a game full of dignity. They transmit on stage a long experience of interpreters, by the touches, by the gestures but also by the scenic know-how. In the 18th Sonata in G major by Mozart and in the 10th by Beethoven, they show at what moments a tonic accent is needed and at what others an elasticity. In Janacek’s Sonata the folkloric characters are sometimes treated with miraculously flexible brutality.
On the morning of July 21, the mandolinist Avi Avital and the guitarist Milos concoct a Bach-Glass program with Albéniz, Falla, Sollima and Duplessy. A Bach movement (Concerto in D minor, Partita, English Suite, Well-Tempered Clavier) and a piece by Glass (Poet Act, Opening, Etude) follow one another almost without interruption, sometimes suggesting an unexpected closeness between the two composers. In this concert there is only one original piece for guitar and mandolin: the Sonata by the French composer Mathias Duplessy (1972-). With a classical structure, the work explores all the techniques of the two instruments, inserting stylistic specificities such as flamenco for example. As excellent accomplices, the two musicians enjoy being on stage to share beauty and passion.
“Sharing” — that’s the word that characterizes the Verbier Festival: the sharing of music on stage, between the musicians and the public, between the young “apprentices” of the Academy… It’s a family story, friendly sharing between generations.
The Festival continues until July 31 and a large number of concerts are broadcast live on Medici.tv and then in replay.
Photo: © Agnieszka Biolik