January 10, 2008


Laurent Korcia: Doubles Jeux. Laurent Korcia, violin. Naïve. $16.99.

      Laurent Korcia is a very fine violinist and a very pretentious producer. His Naïve recording of violin miniatures, in which he played a 1719 Stradivarius with a variety of accompanists, was pleasantly diverting, and his two-CD recording of music by Bartók, also for Naïve, was impressive. But Doubles Jeux is simply puzzling. Yes, it is very well played, and yes, it has great variety, but Korcia’s statement (in his notes for the album) that it represents “a reflection of what exists, of what we are, of our paradoxes,” is simply twaddle. Korcia is correct in asserting that a musical combination like this one would be “unrealistic” in concert, but he begs the question of what makes it “realistic” (whatever that means) on CD. One does not, after all, buy a CD to admire the playing of the violinist, independent of what he plays – one buys it to enjoy that playing as applied to a particular repertoire. When the works performed have virtually nothing to do with each other, it is certainly possible to discover something that one would not otherwise have had the opportunity to enjoy; but it is equally possible to decide that one is wasting one’s time and money on music to which one has no desire to listen.

      There are a dozen works here, played by Korcia with a variety of other artists: violinists Florin Niculescu and Nemanja Radulovic, cellist Tatjana Vassiljeva, bassists Jean-Philippe Viret and Pierre Boussaguet, pianist Michael Wendeberg, guitarist Christophe Lartilleux, bandoneon player Michel Portal, and vocalist Jean-Louis Aubert. Debussy’s Sonata for Violin and Piano and four of Bartók’s Duos for Two Violins anchor the more classical elements of the recording and are played with both skill and sensitivity. There are also shorter classical pieces by Ravel, Wieniawski (a highly virtuosic rendition of Étude-Caprice No. 1) and Massenet.

      Interspersed among these pieces, with no apparent rhyme or reason, are works from a variety of other musical categories. There are three short pieces with “minor” in their titles – whether referring to key or importance, the listener must judge. They are Minor Swing by Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli (their Tears is also performed on this CD), Minor Waltz by Michel Portal (who of course performs in it), and Korcia’s own Minor Tango. The three remaining works here are Duo by Gideon Klein; the theme from Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”), Jacques Demy’s rain-drenched and sorrowful 1964 film in which all the dialogue is sung; and, for a vocal finale, Luigi Denza’s Si Vous l’Aviez Compris.

      Taken individually, and in some cases together, these are works of charm as well as virtuosity. But taken as a totality, as on this CD, they do not (so to speak) harmonize. That seems to be Korcia’s intent – he wants to evoke at one point a jazz club, at another a Parisian café, at another a concert hall. But only a listener attuned to those settings in the sequence Korcia arranges, for the lengths of times of the individual pieces, will fully enjoy the CD. For others, the transitions – or, more correctly, non-transitions – from one piece to the next, one setting to the next, are as likely to break one’s mood as to relocate it. Doubles Jeux will be very much a matter of taste – a delight to some, a disappointment to others. It is one of those albums that it would be nice to hear all the way through before deciding whether to buy it.

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