Gautier Capucon plays Camille Saint-Saens’ The Swan up a mountain (for some reason)

Just last week Gautier Capucon published a behind the scenes video showing how him and his multimedia team produced a promo for one of the tracks on his most recent album.

Until last week I had no idea that Gautier Capucon had released an album called Intuition. This week I can’t think of Gautier’s album title without remembering the opening sequence of an episode from A Bit of Fry and Laurie twenty odd years ago.

The title of the album is a little pretentious side, but is just about forgivable. Other issues aren’t.

 

The narrative constructed by Capucon’s marketing people rests on his smoldering eyes, tight smile, and floppy hair. Combine that with a neat tuxedo and you’re projecting him and his instrument as the epitome of sophistication. In the promo for The Swan, Gautier takes on a Bond-esque air, with a hint of the man who delivers a box of Milk Tray and then scarpers in the night.

If that’s Gautier’s dual role, he’s unlikely to get away unnoticed because, as the behind the scenes video shows, he has quite the entourage.

At the risk of being a mean-spirited bastard about all of this, I am less impressed by the sheer spectacle the video creates, and a little more concerned about the carbon footprint of the production team.

There’s something else I don’t really follow.

Camille Saint-Saens’ The Swan from Carnival of the Animals is by virtue of the music and the title descriptive of a bird that struggles to survive at high altitudes or during bouts of heavy snow. Why then was it deemed a good idea creatively-speaking to put the instrumentalist with his expensive instrument in heavy snow on the top of a mountain?

And why does the dancer appear at first in the promo as though she’s been knocked down flat by a bus, and a 2’29” why is she waving her arms around as though she’s warming up for the shot put?

 

Verbier 2016: Bartok, Brahms and Schubert

If you want an introduction to chamber music and get a flavour of just how rewarding it can be, the Verbier Festival should be on your list.

Performances here are the product of the community spirit that underpins the Festival. The concerts are collaborations between friends whose mastery of their instrument comes in a close second to an unequivocal passion for their art.

The spirit which emanated from the stage sets the bar high: this is what the music was written for, anything less than what you see here probably isn’t worth listening to.

In Bartok’s Contrasts for Clarinet, Violin and Piano opened the programme; clarinettist Martin Frost coerced, taunted, and cajoled with a sometimes devilish balletic presence. The menacing first movement gave way to a plaintiff second featuring an exquisitely sweet high melody from violinist Leonidas Kavakos. The third and final contrast brought things to a spectacular end, violin and clarinet locked into a frenzied battle to the end. Frost’s breathing is remarkable in fast sequences like those in the last movement, so too his fluid finger work.

The Brahms Trio saw violin Kavakos come to the fore – a dramatic contrast with the Bartok before it – playing with a tone so evenly matched with his counterpart Gautier Capucon (cello) that the difference between the two instruments was imperceptible. Capucon is a remarkable force on stage: a brilliant cellist whose technique is flawless, and range utterly enthralling.


Kavakos is humble and self-effacing, but Capucon still takes care not to let personality get in the way of the instrument’s voice. As a result, the immediacy of their music-making transports the audience quickly to a higher plane. A sublime first movement was followed y a delicate playful second movement with some heart-warming connections between cello and pianist Yuja Wang.

And while the fourth movement was suitably conclusive, the notable moment was during the remarkably still third in which all the instrumentalists on stage pulled the audience in further with the quietest sound created by the smallest gestures.

Pianist Yuja Wang had her moment with Schubert’s Piano Quintet Op. 44, in what had surely, by then, been a demanding programme. Kavakos, Wang and Capucon were joined on stage, by violinist Roman Simovic and viola player Blythe Teh Engstroem.

Between them produced moments of great warmth, spirit, and precision. They worked closely together, exchanging glances and infectious smiles. The third movement was so good, the audience continued to clap at the end of the concert until the group sat down and played it again.

All images are the copyright of Aline Paley