Cellists' skill surpasses the available music


Cellists Claudio Jaffe and Johanne Perron, the husband and wife team who form Duo Cellissimo, opened the Evergreen Carriage House Chamber Music Series last Friday evening. It was an impressive beginning. This young couple demonstrated intelligent, enthusiastic music-making.

It was unfortunate that most of the music they played did not match their skills. Finding good music actually written for the unusual combination of two cellos is a problem, as Jaffe admitted before sitting down to play.

Duo Cellissimo tries to solve this problem by making transcriptions of well-known works from the solo and chamber music repertory. They had their biggest success of the evening with a transcription of the Chaconne from the Partita No. 2 in D minor for solo violin by J.S. Bach.

This work, a test by which the great violinists are measured, gained richness in their adaptation. By eliminating the limits of the solo violin, Jaffe and Perrone revealed a level of lyric intensity only implied in the original. Their warm, full-bodied playing had an almost orchestral sound in the intimate confines of the Carriage House. This lent depth to their emotional, but not indulgent, performance. Early-music purists would have run screaming from the room, and that is meant as a compliment.

Far removed from the intellectual complexity of Bach, but equally enjoyable, was the Suite for Two Cellos by French cellist Paul Tortelier. This set of imaginative character pieces was charming. They depict such images as a camel that sights an oasis which turns out to be a mirage and, the audience's favorite, the stormy courtship of a pair of basset hounds.

It is to Jaffe and Perrone's credit that the whimsical nature of the suite was never overwhelmed by its technical difficulties. Demonstrating the variety of colors idiomatic to the cello, this suite demands complete mastery of such techniques as double-stopping and rapid glissandos. Duo Cellissimo met all of the challenges gracefully.

The rest of the program, while well-played, was of minor musical interest. An energetic Vivaldi concerto for two cellos received a spirited performance. Forgotten Baroque composer Joseph Bodin de Boisemortier's Sonata in C major was played with elegance and refinement.

A pleasant but inconsequential Mozart sonata was added to the program in honor of this year's Mozart bicentennial. It would have benefited from a lighter touch from both cellists. Like the Mozart, the Beethoven Duo in B flat major was not one of the composer's better efforts. It seemed under-rehearsed and suffered from occasional lapses in intonation.

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