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Published 22 October 2008, doi:10

Bach Jazz: Güher and Süher Pekinel Featuring the Jacques Loussier Trio

by Barrie Gavin, Hanno Rinke, et al., Directors
Arthaus Musik, Berlin, Germany, 2011
DVD, 97 mins., $25.00
Distributor's website: http://www.arthaus-musik.com

Reviewed by Richard Kade
Ubiquitous Iconoclast
Sunnyvale, CA 94089-1622, USA


One of the most gratifying things about reviewing from my "Siberian Sector of Cyberia" is the wonderful discourse serendipitously prompted by an aside, footnote, or other embryonic fragmentary figment. Of all the items posted since 1997, the greatest volume of thoughtful and thought-provoking feedback ever generated was almost a year ago on a pair of DVDs featuring the Jacques Loussier Trio. [1]

Those who enjoy the always fresh, innovative approach (invariably with that wonderfully casual jazz-jeuge) to Bach, Vivaldi, Debussy, Ravel, Beethoven and others who have been "covered" by Loussier will be delighted to know that a new DVD, this time of the collaboration between the Loussier Trio and the Pekinel twins has finally been released. Although excerpts of this performance given at the Schwetzingen Festival in 2001 have been on YouTube and other sites for some time, included also is the Bach "Double" Concerto in C minor (BWV 1062) in its original setting with Colin Davis and the strings of the English Chamber Orchestra at Cadogan Hall, London in 2007 as well as the Rachmaninoff First Suite, Op. 5 from the opening concert at the Lucerne Piano Festival, recorded on 20 November 2006. Rounding out this collection is the documentary Double Life, a portrait of the Pekinels' musical lives, directed by Hanno Rinke.

All issues of implicit vs. explicit (text vs. context, etc.) explored in the previous review are rekindled by these performances. Indeed, nothing that one might say will change the opinion of any stalwart purist or anything-goes advocate of transcription, adaptation, enhancement and the like.

Almost everything that made the two previous Loussier Trio DVDs enjoyable apply to this newest release. With that stated clearly, this collection is not without, ahem, human imperfection.

The most glaring such lapse is in the credits and most of the printed booklet where the name of the bassist of the trio is given erroneously as Vincent Charbonnier rather than Benoît Dunoyer de Segonzac. How this occurred is open to speculation. The most plausible conjecture is that the CD of the Vivaldi-Loussier Seasons (one of the last occasions Charbonnier performed before suffering the stroke that side-lined him) might have been used when the spelling of names for the credits was being checked? The bottom line is that as a species, we humans are subject to error far more often than any of us would like to remember.

In the initial posting of my previous Loussier review, [2] when likening Bach to Leonardo da Vinci and using the analogy of the helicopter, I somehow (perhaps that paragraph was strung together when I was half-asleep?) typed the name of Otto Skorzeny rather than Igor Sikorsky who, of course, was the person I meant to name.

A quirk that might force some viewers to avert attention from the screen every now and then in much the same way one does when passing a car crash so as not to rubberneck, is the eccentricity so extravagantly exhibited of "singing" by the Turkish twins to themselves of almost every note being played and the occasional emotive hand gestures while playing in a manner prompting recall of the late Glenn Gould. Stipulated, none of these idiosyncrasies is anywhere near as distracting as some of the facial and other contortions one remembers seeing when Bernstein took the podium or, most grotesque of all, the bloated cheeks of Dizzy Gillespie displaying such atrocious lack of embouchure causing most to cringe in fear of imminent explosion. (Somehow, perhaps because it so clearly is not an affectation, the grunting or occasional humming by Erroll Garner is endearing.)

As spectacular as the playing of the Loussier Trio and the Pekinel Duo are, what makes the collaboration magnificent is the recasting of old material by Jacques Loussier. In much the same way that Busoni was able to create, with his Fifth Sonatina (Sonatina Brevis in signo Joannis Sebastiani Magni), a 1918 work that by far outdistanced its model, Loussier accomplishes much the same thing with the "Tripple" Concerto in D minor (BWV 1063). Another such tour de force of adaptation, not on this DVD but available on the CD collaboration by the Loussier Trio and the Pekinels, Take Bach (Teldec 8573-80823-2) is the "Double" Concerto in C Major (BWV 1061).

Because the previous review contained my own personal preference for "best transcriber" of the works of Bach (ol' J.S. himself!), many of the kind people who took time to e-mail pointed out, correctly, that by restricting myself only to the field of music, I overlooked those in other disciplines who found inspiration from his works ... especially in the field of dance.

To rectify this deficiency, briefly, I must say that the "runner-up" would have to be Le Jeune Homme et La Mort, the ballet by Roland Petit, choreographed in 1946 to Respighi's orchestration of Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, BWV 582. The ancillary reason it does not rate "first-place" status is that it was the third choice of music to go with the choreography. The original inspiration was the jazz-era song "Frankie and Johnny" then, on the night of the first performance, Cocteau and Petit decided to change to the Mozart Zauberflöte Overture, but, only as it was far too short, the Bach-Respighi was substituted and it has stuck for over half a century.

As for the "winner," were I in any position to award some prize for the best pairing of music with motion, that distinction hands down belongs to Go for Barocco, a miraculous parody of Balanchine (especially the first movement), of the Third Brandenburg Concerto (BWV 1048) as choreographed by Peter Anastos for Les Ballets Trockadero.

In closing, I must acknowledge my enormous debt of gratitude to several people for putting me on to Christopher Lamb's brilliant blog [3] on the Raff rendition of the "Chaconne" from the Second Partita in D minor (BWV 1004). Several e-mail exchanges later, after brief speculation over how Bach would react to this or that transcription, Chris, a proponent of "Historically Informed Practice" (HIP) performances, summed things up beautifully in near-Woody Allen-esque terms, "I'm slightly schizophrenic on the matter -- sometimes that kind of onanistic metaphysical analysis is fun to read but it can also be unbearably ingratiating at other times. It is also essentially useless for performers. :)" About all that one might add would be the line from Oscar Levant:

"Roses are Red,
Violets are blue.

I'm schizophrenic
And so am I!"


[1] http://leonardo.info/reviews/jul2010/kade_loussier.php.
[2] Ibid. While on the topic of updates, okay corrections, the final footnote referenced the suit brought in Federal Court in New York by "J-Lu" against Eminem (Jacques Loussier v. Marshall Mathers, et al. or something to that effect) for copyright infringement of Pulsion as used in "Kill You". Out of court settlement was reached in 2004 for an undisclosed portion of the $20 mil (US) being sought by JL.
[3] http://chris-lamb.co.uk/2009/03/15/joachim-raff-orchestration-bachs-chaconne.

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