KVT – Piano Duo with the Lafitte Sisters

KVT – Piano Duo with the Lafitte Sisters

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The Lafitte twins, Florence and Isabelle, gave us a tour de force performance on two grand pianos at the Opera House on Tuesday night. They played duets on one piano and duos on two grands.
They are an extremely clever pair. Apparently they have created a database of more than 7,000 works for two pianos and they commission new pieces. Isabelle also composes new works and transcribes orchestral scores for two pianos.

They started with Debussy’s ‘La Petite Suite’ as a duet. This beautiful four movement work was originally written for four hands on the piano but is usually heard as an orchestral work. It is demanding to play, although in the hands of these sisters it sounded so simple. From the first movement with the its sounds of ripples, eddies and whirlpools in water, through the exquisite and magical ‘Menuet’ third movement to the final, energetic Ballet section we couldn’t help but be entranced.

Then they shifted to two pianos for Isabelle’s transcription of Glazunov’s dramatic orchestral tone poem, ‘Stenka Razine’. And magnificent it was! Magnificent to hear and to watch. Composed when Glazunov was 20, it tells of one adventure of the revolutionary Cossack, Razine, when he sacrifices a captured Persian princess to the waters of the Volga River. The music culminates in the graphic depiction of the maiden’s death before reprising the Song of the Volga Boatmen that crescendos as Razine leads his forces to war against the Czar. This performance took my breath away.

Even though I could have had the interval there and then to let all that energy and concentration dissipate, the sisters went on and played a transcription of Rimsky Korsakov’s ‘Fantasy on Serbian Themes’ composed when he was a very young man. This delightful, energetically whimsical work was the perfect way to finish up the first half.

The second part of the night was given over to the romance and drama of Scheherazade from French and Russian perspectives.

The more I listen to Ravel the more I fall in love with his work. He was a good pianist and transcribed over 30 of his compositions for 2 pianos or duets. The sisters played one duet of these, the ‘Scheherazade, Fairy Overture” which was his first orchestral work (even though it premiered to less than overwhelming applause in 1898, was suppressed by Ravel and didn’t reappear until 1975… and I’m sure glad it did). It was the perfect way to lead us into a really bravura adaptation of two sections of Rimsky Korsakov’s famous ‘Sheherazade’. I’m always in awe of musicians who take on a really well known piece of classical music and make it speak anew. Sinbad was made alive in this recapturing of the 549th night of Sheherazade’s tale telling… and the Sultan’s anger was still intense.

The audience, understandably, wouldn’t let the pair go until they’d encored twice…first with a scintillating duet byAstor Piazzolla and then Isabelle’s own foot tapping ‘Boogie’.

Brilliant evening from two brilliant ladies thanks to the ongoing brilliance of L’Espace and the French…..totally awesome and totally awesomely attired pianists.

Not a reviewer, not a critic, “Kiếm Văn Tìm” is an interested, impartial and informed observer and connoisseur of the Hanoi art scene who offers highly opinionated remarks and is part of the long and venerable tradition of anonymous correspondents. Please add your thoughts in the comment field below.


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