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Review by David Richards
Toronto ON April 14th 2019
Yuja Wang and Gautier Capuҫon accept the standing ovation
Photo credit: David Kennedy
It was a masterful performance to be long-remembered! No, I don’t mean Tiger Woods’ victory at the Masters Golf Tournament. I am referring to the brilliant performance of cellist Gautier Capuҫon and pianist Yuja Wang at Koerner Hall last night. But there is much that could be compared with the two events. The finest cellist and pianist of their generation came together and performed to perfection; wild standing ovation and cheers followed their stunning encore (Astor Piazzolla’s Le Grand Tango for Cello and Piano); the concert was played on the stage of the country’s finest concert hall; and, if you missed the performance (just as if you missed the Masters final holes) you will be able to replay it over and over again when the recording is released by Warner Classics this fall.
To say that the duo is at the top of the musical world is no understatement. Both in their thirties, they bring both a youthful charisma to their music along with a mature understanding of its depth. As such they have had whirlwind careers combining solo performances in the world’s most prestigious venues along with concerto performances with the world’s finest orchestras. They met at the Verbier Music Festival in Switzerland six years ago and have re-united for a tour of the northeast U.S and Canada this spring. Capuҫon had his debut at Koerner Hall last season while Wang has performed there four times since it opened ten years ago. Mervon Mehta, Executive Director of Performing Arts at the Royal Conservatory was proud to say that they now consider Koerner Hall to be their home in Canada.
Yuja Wang and Gautier Capuҫon; Photo credit: Royal Conservatory of Music
Yuja Wang and Gautier Capuҫon: A masterful performance to be long-remembered!
For last night’s performance, they brought together cello music by composers known as virtuosic pianists. Fryderyk Chopin and César Franck spent most of their adult lives in France although their birth homes were elsewhere. Both composed very little for cello, but found the instrument to their liking in the two sonatas performed last night.
Chopin’s Sonata in G minor, op. 65 opened the program. Capuҫon and Wang captured the nocturne like moments of heavenly beauty as well as the drama that could be likened to his ballades. I was particularly taken with the sweeping beauty of the third movement. The rich tone of Capuҫon’s 1701 Matteo Goffriller cello was breathtaking as were the musical lines supported by the delicate piano accompaniment. The work was truly a sonata for cello and piano; both instruments required virtuosity and expressive sensitivity. They captured perfectly the overriding melancholic spirit of the work composed while in the last stages of life.
The Introduction and Polonaise Brilliante Op. 3 was a contrasting light-hearted piece of a youthful Chopin. The Polonaise is reminiscent of Chopin’s other early Mazurka’s and Polonaises with plenty of Polish character and plenty of “dazzle” as Chopin himself admitted.
Following Intermission, the duo performed César Franck’s Sonata in A Major for Cello and Piano. I’m sure anyone with Romantic feelings at all has to fall in love with this work on first hearing it. The singable melodies that return again and again in one form or another engage the listener like few works can. The virtuosic playing was beyond words. The second movement is a pianist’s nightmare, but it was performed with easy confidence and authority. Written originally as a violin/piano duo, it has been performed by cellists almost since its première. It certainly suits the cello as performed last night.
The parting gift by the duo were two encores, the stunningly beautiful The Swan from Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals and Piazzolla’s Le Grand Tango for Cello and Piano, a rhythmic showcase of virtuosity.
Koerner Hall continues its 10th Anniversary Season with diverse programming from all corners of the world. Next on our agenda is the Royal Conservatory Orchestra’s performance of Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky with conductor András Keller and pianist Linda Ruan on Friday, April 26 2019 at 8pm. Mariza will bring her world music to Koerner Hall on April 27.