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In performance: Dautricourt and Jokubaviciute

Web-only review:

Belgian work highlights duo's lyrical contemporary evening
by Charles T. Downey

On Monday night La Maison Française presented another concert of contemporary music, by French violinist Nicolas Dautricourt, who inaugurated this series in 2005. For a program on the theme of musical modernism, it was an evening distinguished more by lyrical beauty than the harshness often associated with experimental music.
(read more after the jump)

At the heart of the first half were pieces by the triumvirate of the Second Viennese School. In Berg’s op. 1 piano sonata, dating from the period of his studies with Arnold Schoenberg but before the development of the twelve-tone compositional process, pianist Ieva Jokubaviciute played with confident virtuosity and a moody spontaneity that emphasized the work’s chromatic, almost jazz-like harmonies. Webern’s more atonal four pieces for violin and piano, op. 7, were compressed almost to the point of implosion: the soft movements sounded like nothing more than a few drips of water into a puddle and some hoarse whispers. Only in Schoenberg’s op. 47 fantasy did Dautricourt’s technique weaken slightly, with some of the harmonics sounding scratchy and elusive.

At the end of the Schoenberg, Dautricourt dislodged the chin piece from his violin, and it continued to come loose and cause trouble in later pieces. With or without the chin piece, the recital’s outer works provided the most beautiful moments, especially Messiaen’s melodically rich “Thème et variations,” made lush by Dautricourt’s honey-sweet tone. The best discovery of the evening was a violin concerto by Belgian composer Piet Swerts, “Zodiac,” chosen as the compulsory work for the finals of the 1993 Queen Elisabeth Competition. As performed in a reduction for piano by Jokubaviciute, it featured driving rhythmic patterns reminiscent of Prokofiev’s more barbaric style but also an original melodic turn, pretty but with bite.

--Charles T. Downey

By Anne Midgette  |  April 15, 2010; 2:06 AM ET
Categories:  local reviews  
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Thank you, Mssr Downey for two excellent reviews for the WP; except that I feel that Ms. Jokubaviciute, who participated in the recital as a soloist as well as an accompanist, should have been named in the first sentence of the review.

That is too bad about violinist Nicolas Dautricourt’s problem with his instrument’s chin rest.

I heard Mssr Dautricourt and Ms. Jokubaviciute last Thursday at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage performing the Messiaen, a Ysaye solo violin sonata, and fascinating new works by Richard Dubugnon (for duo) and Raminta Serksnyte (for piano alone).

Mssr Dautricourt’s tone that evening was exceptionally beautiful, smooth, and polished, and the 600 quiet members of the audience – sitting and standing -- were entranced by the beauty and energy of the music and collaboration.

It’s good to see that the Millennium Stage and the NSO – unlike the WNO and the WPAS – are not ‘dumbing down’ there programming and threatening to send the Nation’s Capital into a double-dip Great Cultural Recession.

Posted by: snaketime1 | April 15, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Downey: I would be interested in knowing what exactly is an "almost jazz-like harmony". Are you just BS'ing? Would a b-minor 9th with an added sharp 11 qualify? What is the dividing line between jazz harmony and chromatic 'almost' jazz harmony? An example would be appreciated.

Posted by: kashe | April 15, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Kashe, I think the bet-hedging phrase "almost jazz-like" would be enough to indicate that "the dividing line between jazz harmony and chromatic harmony" is rather difficult to draw. All I was trying to note was that some stretches of Berg's op. 1, with perhaps a few adjustments, could be made to sound like convincing cocktail piano.

An example? Well, all those extended tertiary chords moving chromatically give that impression, but take measure 14 as one example. In a more tonal context, the harmony there would be an A dominant seventh chord with -- yes, just as you suggest -- an added 9th (B) and sharp 11th (D#), and it moves to a fully diminished seventh chord (spelled as if B is the root, but in an inversion that seems to indicate G# is the root). So, no, I don't think "almost jazz-like" was BSing, nor do I think simply equating Berg's atonal chromatic harmony with jazz harmony would be justified.

Here is an online score for anyone interested in studying the score further:,_Op.1_%28Berg,_Alban%29

Posted by: Charles_D | April 16, 2010 7:52 AM | Report abuse

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