The French violinist Renaud Capuçon and the Israeli pianist and conductor Lahav Shani perform Claude Debussy's Violin Sonata in G minor, L.140. Recorded live at the auditorium de la Maison de la Radio, in Paris, on May 18, 2018.
Debussy's Sonata for violin and piano, third in a projected series of six chamber sonatas, was the last work the composer completed before his death in 1918. Progress on the sonata caused Debussy a great deal of frustration; in the end, he felt that it never really came together the way he had originally intended. Nevertheless, the work remains a powerful, forward-looking effort that manages to fuse elements of mainstream concert tradition with a wholehearted affinity for gypsy violin playing.
The Sonata unfolds in three movements: Allegro vivo, Intermède (Fantasque et léger), and Finale (Très animé). A broadly melodic flavor informs the first movement, enough so that Debussy clearly felt no need to include the separate slow movement typical of traditional sonatas. Indeed, the extremely legato gestures, frequent hemiolas, and generally long note values belie the movement's Allegro vivo indication, which, rather than reflecting the surface detail of the music, seems calculated to prompt the performers to provide a constant undercurrent of urgency. More active are the piano's arpeggio figurations as the music moves through several keys in preparation for the reprise of the opening material; even these, however, are marked pianissimo.
Of the three movements the Intermède is the most "fantastic", moving with ease between music marked scherzando and that of a more improvisatory nature. A wonderful chromatic melody, marked "expressif et sans rigueur", enters midway through the movement and is repeated just before the return of the opening material (now recast in a fuller, less rhapsodic fashion). A burst of energy from the violin is quickly extinguished as the movement dies away into nothingness.
Debussy had the most difficulty with the sonata's final movement. The opening theme of the first movement returns in the violin, accompanied by the piano in figuration that recalls the composer's Les estampes (1903). After this introductory gesture, the finale proper begins with an explosion of unaccompanied activity in the violin. This almost incessant stream of sixteenth notes is suspended on only a few occasions, each marking vital structural points; in one particuarly striking instance, the movement's main motive sounds pianissimo against a static, B flat major background. Unusually for Debussy, the work ends with a staunch fortissimo affirmation of the home key of G major.
In his last few compositions Debussy began to move away from the kind of pictorial, sensual music that had driven his work for the previous 15 or 20 years. Indeed, the Sonata for violin and piano provides a glimpse of what purely abstract musical wonders the composer might have wrought had he not succumbed to cancer at the age of 55.
Source: Blair Johnston (allmusic.com)
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
♪ Violin Sonata in G minor, L.140 (1917)
i. Allegro vivo
ii. Intermède: Fantasque et léger
iii. Finale: Très animé
Renaud Capuçon, violin
Lahav Shani, piano
Auditorium de la Maison de la Radio, Paris, May 18, 2018
French violinist Renaud Capuçon is firmly established internationally as a major soloist, recitalist and chamber musician. He is known and loved for his poise, depth of tone and virtuosity, and he works with the world's most prestigious orchestras, artists, venues and festivals.
Born in Chambéry in 1976, Renaud Capuçon began his studies at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris at the age of fourteen, winning numerous awards during his five years there. Following this, Capuçon moved to Berlin to study with Thomas Brandis and Isaac Stern and was awarded the Prize of the Berlin Academy of Arts. In 1997, he was invited by Claudio Abbado to become concert master of the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester, which he led for three summers, working with conductors including Boulez, Ozawa, Welser-Möst and Claudio Abbado.
Since then, Capuçon has established himself as a soloist at the very highest level. He performs with leading orchestras such as the Berliner Philharmoniker, Vienna Philharmonic (VPO), London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Orchestre National de France, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Filarmonica della Scala, Boston Symphony and New York Philharmonic. His many conductor relationships include Gergiev, Barenboim, Bychkov, Dénève, Dohnanyi, Dudamel, Eschenbach, Haitink, Harding, Paavo Järvi, Nelsons, Nézet-Seguin, Roth, Shani, Ticciati, van Zweden and Long Yu. Highlights of the 2018-2019 season include performances with the Wiener Symphoniker, Orchestre de Paris, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Camerata Salzburg, Konzerthausorchester Berlin, New York Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, New World Symphony and a tour of Europe with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
A great commitment to chamber music has led him to collaborations with Argerich, Angelich, Barenboim, Bashmet, Bronfman, Buniatishvili, Grimaud, Hagen, Ma, Pires, Trifonov and Yuja Wang, as well as with his brother, cellist Gautier Capuçon, and have taken him, among others, to the Berlin, Lucerne, Verbier, Aix-en-Provence, Roque d'Anthéron, San Sebastián, Stresa, Salzburg, Edinburgh International and Tanglewood festivals. He is also the Artistic Director of two festivals, the Sommets Musicaux de Gstaad, since 2016, and the Easter Festival in Aix-en-Provence, which he founded in 2013.
He has built an extensive discography and records exclusively with Erato/Warner Classics. Recent releases include a recording of Bartok's two violin concertos with the LSO / Roth, Brahms and Berg with the VPO / Harding, and chamber music of Debussy. His latest recording, "Au Cinema", featuring much loved selections from film music, releases in October 2018.
In 2017, Capuçon founded a new ensemble, the Lausanne Soloists, comprised of current and former students of the Haute École de Musique de Lausanne, where he has held a professorship since 2014. He plays the Guarneri del Gesù "Panette" (1737), which belonged to Isaac Stern. In June 2011 he was appointed "Chevalier dans l'Ordre National du Mérite" and in March 2016 "Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur" by the French Government.
Lahav Shani has established himself as one of the most talked about young conducting talents making a huge impression with his astonishing maturity and natural, instinctive musicality. In September 2018 he takes over as Chief Conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, succeeding Yannick Nézet-Séguin and becoming the youngest Chief Conductor in the orchestra's history. In the 2020-2021 season, Shani will succeed Zubin Mehta as Music Director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and will be the orchestra's Music Director Designate from 2019-2020.
In the 2017-2018 season, Shani became Principal Guest Conductor of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, following a number of appearances with the orchestra since his debut in May 2015, including a major European tour in January 2016. Shani also works regularly with the Berlin Staatskapelle, both at the Berlin Staatsoper and also for symphonic concerts. In spring 2019 he will return to conduct "Don Giovanni" at the Berlin Staatsoper.
Recent and upcoming highlights as a guest conductor include engagements with the Vienna Philharmonic, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Dresden Staatskapelle, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Boston Symphony, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Philharmonia Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Philadelphia Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Bamberger Symphoniker and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France.
Shani's close relationship with the Israel Philharmonic started in 2007 when he performed Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto under the baton of Zubin Mehta and continued in the following years as both a pianist and also as a double-bass player. Shani was born in Tel Aviv in 1989 and started his piano studies aged six with Hannah Shalgi, continuing with Prof. Arie Vardi at the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music in Tel Aviv. He went on to complete his studies in conducting with Prof. Christian Ehwald and piano with Prof. Fabio Bidini, both at the Academy of Music Hanns Eisler Berlin. Whilst a student he was mentored by Daniel Barenboim. In 2013 he won First Prize in the Gustav Mahler International Conducting Competition in Bamberg.
As a pianist Shani made his solo recital debut at the Boulez Saal in Berlin in July 2018. He has play-directed piano concertos with many orchestras including the Philharmonia Orchestra, Staatskapelle Berlin, and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. Recent concerto engagements include appearances with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Beethoven Triple Concerto with Renaud and Gautier Capuçon with the Israel Philharmonic. Shani also has considerable experience performing chamber music appearing recently at the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, the Cologne Philharmonie and the Verbier Festival.
“Debussy: one of the most original of moderns”, 1908, & “French composer Claude Debussy dies”, 1918 – Two articles from the Guardian archive
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