Dallas — The Blue Candlelight Music Series presented a dynamite recital of French music entitled Passion Through the Centuries on Sunday at the private Schulze home, specifically designed for chamber concerts. The works had lots of passion built in but there was also quite a lot of passion in the performance of these collective works.
The performers were the principals behind the music series: Executive director of the series, Baya Kakouberi, and her husband, violinist Gary Levinson, who is the Senior Associate Concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Artistic Director of the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth. Both are internationally recognized artists and they gave an astounding perofmrnace of four extremely difficult works.
Gabriel Fauré wrote his first violin sonata when he was young. He was introduced to one of the greatest singers of his day, Pauline Viardot, and promptly fell in love with her daughter, Marianne. It didn’t work out, however. She broke off the relationship, such as it was, after only a few months. He wrote this sonata at that time for her brother, Paul, but he didn’t play it at the time. The premiere was played by Marie Tayau, who was famous for founding an all-female string quartet, unheard of in 1877.
Kakouberi set the mood with her extended introduction to the first movement. All of Fauré’s contrapuntal work was clear and intricate. The second movement, a rocking barcarolle, was once again well served by the clarity of the performers and the two melodic lines interweaved throughout. The brief scherzo flew by, a blur of changing meters. The energetic and fleet-footed finale brought the performance to an exciting close.
Following this, Kakouberi delivered a magnificent performance of Debussy’s suite for piano, Estampes. The general impression of the audience was that in all the years of hearing her play, this was probably her best performance to date. While Debussy’s impressionistic music sounds improvised and gauzy, it can only sound that way when precisely played. Such was the case with the Estampes.
Ernst Chausson’s Poème was written at the request of a concerto for the great violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. The composer didn’t feel up to such a daunting task so he work this work as a sort of mini-concerto Its greatest challenge, other then the extreme technical demands, is that it has many tempo changes yet needs to sound like a whole, since it is played without a pause. The two artists accomplished this task with ease and the piece effortlessly flowed through its restless changes.
Saint-Saëns was one of the most respected composers of his day. Dallas recently had the chance to hear his opera, Samson et Dalila, at The Dallas Opera, and marvel at its beauties as well as hearing his Organ Symphony at the DSO this past week. This sonata is rarely played because it is so difficult that violinists and pianists are both afraid to tackle its challenges or don’t have the time required to master its complexities. This didn’t faze Levinson and Kakouberi, who delivered as fine a performance as you will hear.
This was an exceptional evening of music-making. You would always expect a fine performance from the pair, but this was something special.