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Soaring Strings in Montréal

Cabaret Le Lion d’Or
09/27/2011 -  
Reinhold Glière: Eight Pieces for Violin and Cello: Scherzo, opus 39 n° 7
Selga Mence: Andante et Allegretto
Arthur Honegger: Sonatine for Violin and Cello, H. 80: 3rd Movement (Allegro)
Johan August Halvorsen: Sarabande con variazioni (Thême de Händel)
Sébastien Lépine: Fantaisie Rock’n d’Roll
Maurice Ravel: Sonata for Violin and Cello: 2nd Movement (Très vif)
Antoine Bareil: Gros insectes
Edgar Meyer: Concert Duo: 1st movement
George Frideric Handel: Keyboard Suite n° 7 in G minor, HWV 432: Passacaglia (arrangement Johan August Halvorsen)

Cordes en délire: Antoine Bareil (Violin), Sébastien Lépine (Cello)

Cordes en délire (© Courtesy of Orgue et Couleurs)

Montréal has so many music festivals that it’s difficult to keep track of them let alone attend them all. Tuesday evening I heard the duo “Cordes en délire” (Soaring Strings) as part the 13th edition of “Orgue et couleurs” (Organ and Colours), which offers two annual festivals—“Festival d’automne” (The Autumn Festival) and “Concerts populaires de Montréal” (Popular Concerts Montréal).

Violinist Antoine Bareil and cellist Sébastien Lépine, who comprise “Cordes en délire”, have been performing together since 2006, specializing in challenging and off-beat compositions from the 20th and 21st centuries. On Tuesday they offered a exciting array of works interspersed with rollicking repartee in a cabaret setting.

They opened with Reinhold Glière’s three-minute Scherzo, performed with verve and a relaxed lightness of touch. Selga Mence’s (b. 1953) Andante et Allegretto was rendered with a burnished tone and an impeccable balance and blend of instrument – from the mournful, elegiac opening to the strident, lively segments of the Allegretto. Their performance of the third movement of Honegger’s Sonata for Violin and Cello was astonishing in its virtuosity. They closed the first half of the program with the Norwegian Johan August Halvorsen’s variations on Handel’s Sarabande from the Eleventh Suite, the leitmotif of which, the musicians reminded us, Stanley Kubrick used in his film Barry Lyndon. Although Halvorsen’s rendition is still in the tonal mode, he infuses counterpoint and a wide dynamic range to provide enough excitement to put his compositions on the popular music charts.

The audience was wowed by the first half of the program, but bowled over by the second half. The duo began with Lépine’s (b.1974) Fantaisie Rock’n d’Roll an imaginative and witty 10-minute composition for electric violin and cello! (Note the lightly veiled reference to “droll” in the title.) This potpourri of thematic material featured riffs on various pop tunes, including the theme from Goldfinger, during which Lépine stood up and reminded the audience that they were listening to James Bond! To my dismay this was the only composition in which they used these eclectic instruments.

This was followed by an intense and aggressive rendition of the second movement of Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello. In this extremely difficult work technique and harmonics are pushed to the limit. The duo dazzled with their virtuosity, passion and intensity right up to the closing sigh of relief from the cello. Bareil (b. 1980) then treated the audience to his composition Gros insectes (Large Insects), a musical description, he explained, of various animal life nestled between a large boulder and the ground in the forest. Besides virtuosic feats on the strings, the work featured the duo stomping their feet, knocking on their instruments and rustling the pages of their scores.

The penultimate work, Concert Duo, by Edgar Meyer (b. 1960), the double bass and bluegrass performer, again featured a plethora of musical styles of amazing virtuosity, ranging from a mournful, nostalgic introduction to a rocking jazz-like theme on the cello. They concluded with finely played arrangement by Halvorsen of Handel’s Passacaglia from the Seventh Suite.

“Cordes en délire” have performed across Canada as well as in Italy on several occasions. Bareil performs on a Vuillaume violin and Lépine on a 1699 Stradivarius cello (of which only 25 exist worldwide). It was too bad that only about two dozen attendees profited from this exciting, energizing concert.

“Orgue et couleurs”

Earl Arthur Love



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