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Renaud Déjardin and Márta Gődény

Renaud Déjardin and Márta Gődény, La Maison Française, May 24, 2006On Wednesday night, the La Maison Française hosted a concert by cellist Renaud Déjardin and his pianist partner Márta Gődény. Last August, I went to the embassy to hear some of the qualifying round for the Rostropovich Cello Competition. I did not hear Mr. Déjardin that day, but he did well in the competition in Paris in November, receiving fifth prize. (All six finalists chose to play the same concerto in the final round, the Shostakovich op. 107, and an 18-year-old named Marie-Elizabeth Hecker impressed the jury the most.) Déjardin received a Mention, not a prize but an honor, in the 1997 competition, too.

Available at
Renaud Déjardin and Márta Gődény, Bohuslav Martinů, Sonatas for cello and piano
Bohuslav Martinů, Sonatas for Cello and Piano, Renaud Déjardin and Márta Gődény (released on September 1, 2005)
I will go out of my way to hear the music of Bohuslav Martinů, so when I saw the third cello sonata on the program, I added this concert to my schedule. It is a luscious work, with a diaphanous Debussy-like opening that corresponded well to the strengths of pianist Márta Gődény. This was her strongest performance of the evening, especially on the longer interludes in the work for piano alone. In the joyous 6/8 of the first movement there are delicious dissonances glistening inside the larger chords. Renaud Déjardin, too, was at his best here, especially in the slow movement, where his tone was consistently strong and urgent, with delicate pizzicati. The two players rendered the syncopated, bluesy third movement as a series of picaresque scenes. The third cello sonata was composed in 1952, the end of the Swing Era, when Martinů was in exile in the United States and around the time when in fact he became a U.S. citizen. Judging from this performance, I would guess that the duo's recent recording of the three Martinů sonatas would be worth hearing.

The duo opened with another strong performance, of the brief cello sonata by Claude Debussy. Composed in 1915, this sonata may have been a point of inspiration for the later Martinů work, as its structure and character are similar. Here also Gődény's strength as a colorist served her well. At times, especially for a former student of Pierre-Laurent Aimard at the Conservatoire de Paris, she was almost too gentle, too self-effacing. Similarly, Déjardin has a soaring sense of line, but although he is always a self-assured player, he lacked an element of daring at times. Still, this combination proves a strength at moments like the opening of the second-movement Sérénade, with the cello's evocation of a plucked lute and the piano's delicate shading.

Martinů on Ionarts:

Charles T. Downey, Greek Passion in London (October 1, 2004)

Jens F. Laurson and Charles T. Downey, Beaux Arts Trio at the National Gallery (October 10, 2005)

Jens F. Laurson, Martinů Makes Happy (November 8, 2005)

Charles T. Downey, Martinů's Juliette in Paris (February 25, 2006)

Charles T. Downey, Jerusalem Symphony at Strathmore (March 1, 2006)
Least successful was a set of twelve transcriptions of Schumann Lieder (editorship unattributed -- we assume the performers are responsible), divided up into two groups of six. One or two of these would make a sweet encore, but without the poems that inspired Schumann, although the music and the playing were pretty enough, these wordless versions left me uninspired. I think more extensive adaptation -- rather than simple transcription -- is necessary to make these work on the cello, at least to have enough substance to make them interesting enough to stand on their own. This deficit was compensated for in the work that opened the second half, Schumann's Funf Stücke im Volkston, op. 102 (replacing the announced Mozart piece). The inspiration here was folksong, but the five character pieces are all created for these instruments and provide interesting challenges to the ear. Renaud Déjardin and Márta Gődény met all of those challenges in a fine performance, including the big multiple-stop section for the cello in the third movement and the Puckish melodic turns in the fourth. Not surprisingly, the best playing came in the delicate setting of a lovely, arching melody in the second movement. Atmosphere and color are this duo's strength.

The final concert of classical music at La Maison Française this season will feature the Klavier Trio Amsterdam next Tuesday (May 30, 7:30 pm). Also, American cellist Alan Toda-Ambaras, who was 14 years old when he received the Prix du meilleur espoir for best young cellist in this year's Rostropovich Competition (he was the youngest player this year), will play here in Washington in the fall. For this concert at Strathmore next winter (January 13, 7:30 pm), he will give a joint recital with violinist Daniel Austrich.

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