An exhilarating start with the slight sway of a pavane in wind mode. Katia and Marielle Labèque (Bayonne, 73 and 71 years old respectively) began their concert last Monday, the 20th, sitting next to each other in the Zaragoza Auditorium. They played the original version with four hands My mother, the goose, Maurice Ravel’s 1910 suite based on children’s stories. A composition that has accompanied these famous French pianist sisters for five decades, but which continues to develop in their fingers.
They recorded it in both 1985 (Philips) and 2006 (DG), always with Katia on the right side of the keyboard and Marielle on the left, and with an amazing relationship to sharing the instrument’s pedals. But the sound result has always been different. If you do this on your first registration Pavane from Sleeping Beauty This opens the suite emphasized the French mother-of-pearl touch that individualized each noteat this second They increased the tempo slightly to intensify the melodic line. Now her phrases rise into the air with a perfect dynamic gradation between the softness of the piano (p) that Marielle proposes and the transience of the pianissimo (pp) that Katia finishes.
The rest of Ravell’s suite was a marvel of narrative fluidity and tonal plasticity. The curved and swaying tone, in Thumbelina, was combined with the song of the birds eating their breadcrumbs. The colorful memory of Ugly girl, Empress of the Pagodas It sounded as pentatonic as it was liturgical. And the perfect relationship between each character was ideal Conversation “Beauty and the Beast”.from the incantation of the young woman with a Gymnopedics even the monster’s growl in the low register. But the best came last The enchanted gardenwith a fragrant initial simplicity that leads to the overflowing intensity of a green orchard.
The first part ended with a curious experiment: the suite for two pianos by Orpheus, by Philip Glass, an opera that premiered last season at the Teatro Real. A longer and more elaborate arrangement by Michael Riesman than the well-known one for solo piano by Paul Barnes. And one of the three pillars of the pianist sisters’ next project can be seen at the Paris Philharmonie in March: the suites for two pianos from Glass’s three chamber operas based on novels and films by Jean Cocteau (Orpheus, Beauty and the Beast j The terrible children) with scenic design.
Glass’s minimalism fits well with the sound of a piano duo. It was clear at the beginning, in this evocation of ragtime from his first scene entitled the coffee. The agreement continued Street, although it was not specified in the program. And with the beautiful neo-baroque nod of Orpheus’ room or later with the evocative Orpheus and the Princesswhich makes us remember the unforgettable love scene from Cocteau’s film with Jean Marais and María Casares. The Labèque sisters set a frenetic tempo from start to finish that took on symphonic overtones The journey into the underworld. But the second half of the suite was very heavy and difficult to connect with the plot of the opera.
The composition was somewhat more attractive at the beginning of the second part The Chan, by the indie rock musician, but also by the post-minimalist composer Bryce Dessner. This is a work originally planned for a piano quartet, which was expressly arranged for two pianos for the Labèque sisters in 2016. A series of pieces dedicated to the filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu in which he recalls the botanical garden of San Miguel de Allende (Guanajuato) called El Charco del Ingenio. This is also the title of the first piece, which offers an aerial view of the park, from tremolos that sounded “like water” to rhythms that seem to be reminiscent of natural phenomena. The musical language is quite varied and torn between Erik Satie and John Adams. But the French pianists naturally intensified each texture. They particularly highlighted the penultimate piece with the title The Puddle of Chanwhich alludes to the place where lives the spirit of the mythical guardian of the underworld, whose mysterious waters they masterfully depicted.
And finally, the Labèque decided on a sure value for its song evenings: the songs from the musical West Side Story, by Leonard Bernstein, arranged for two pianos by Irwin Kostal. It was Bernstein himself who made this arrangement possible, shortly before meeting the pianists in 1987, and he admitted that the recording on Sony Classical gave his music a “new modernity”. Only five songs were listed in the Zaragoza program, although we heard seven and in a different order. They started with Something is comingthey continued with the riff of Jet songbut they added the tenderness One hand, one heart and the spark of I feel pretty in front of the impressive arrangement of Tonight. The popular one followed Maria which they enhanced with this mixture of colorful tenderness and technical preciousness for the second part. Bernstein’s party ended with America where they intensified their Petenera rhythm a more modern arrangement, also by Kostal, who recorded for DG with drums.
However, the final highlight was for Philip Glass. Katia thanked the audience in Spanish and announced the last word Four sentences for two pianos by the American composer. This is the Glass composition that was announced in place of the suite Orpheus on this short Spanish tour of the Baluarte de Pamplona and the Auditorium Zaragoza, which made its first stop in Córdoba three weeks ago when the Rafael Orozco Piano Festival opened. And it was a worthy climax, with music much more interesting than the opera suite and in which the outstanding performances of the two French pianists were intertwined and combined in a frenetic and obsessive way crescendo Finale that brought out the bravest from the audience.
Many of us remember the heady beginning with Ravel in their enchanted garden, but the Labèque sisters will continue to explore new avenues and expand their repertoire. Marielle makes it clear in the final sentence the book of conversations between both sisters with the critic Renaud Machart (Buchet-Chastel, 2016): “I am convinced that we will live for a hundred years and that the best is still ahead of us.”
Katia and Marielle Labèque
works by Ravel, Glass, Dessner j Amber.
Katia and Marielle LabèquePianos.
XXVI. Cycle of the great soloists Pilar Bayona. Auditorium Zaragoza, November 20th.
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