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In performance: Queyras and Tharaud

In today's Washington Post: Avner Dorman concerto has East Coast premiere in Fairfax, by Joan Reinthaler.

Edited to add: New "Cathedra" choir takes on Bach's St. Mark, by Alfred Thigpen. (Scroll down for review.)

Web-only review:

French spirit prevails in cello-piano recital
by Tom Huizenga

The tension Claude Debussy fostered in the early 20th century between the tenets of true French and German music, curiously reappeared Friday night within a recital by cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and pianist Alexandre Tharaud at the Library of Congress.
(read more after the jump)

Debussy wanted French music to retain its esprit français, free from the influence of tidy Germanic structures. To that end he wrote his Cello Sonata (in 1915, during World War I), which barely resembles a sonata at all -- Debussy's musical touché. Queyras and Tharaud gave a smart, intricately tuned performance, highlighting the music's impish sense of improvisation and its array of modern sounds. Queyras's nut-brown tone, beautiful and slightly nasal, took on many sonic guises, from Spanish guitar to bass clarinet.

Other French offerings were equally well served, including Poulenc's "Suite Française" (1935), a retooling of Renaissance tunes that was "lite" on the music scale but superbly played with jaunty, transparent elegance. Henri Dutilleux's "Three Strophes on the Name Sacher, for Solo Cello" (1976-82) was spare and evocative, and a virtuoso's compendium of special effects, with icy slivers of sound, bouncing bow strokes and left-hand pizzicato. Queyras tossed it off brilliantly, with percussive drum beats and colors ranging from dark cherry to whiteout.

In terms of Debussy's Franco-Teutonic fracas, the victor was France -- sort of -- as the two natives played all that was French fluently, with style. But the loser, unfortunately, was Schubert, whose music seemed to elude the pair. The "Arpeggione" Sonata had its lovely moments but ultimately felt disconnected, with oddly judged tempos. Three "Moments Musicaux," played by Tharaud, emerged self-conscious and lacked a sense of Schubert's singing line.

-- Tom Huizenga

By Anne Midgette  |  March 15, 2010; 5:30 AM ET
Categories:  local reviews  
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