This is a guest review by Andy Jurik
Taking the stage after a brief delay due to nail issues, the Paris Guitar Duo nonetheless seemed calm and professional as they opened their concert at the 2011 GFA Convention. The duo, Judicaël Perroy and Jérémy Jouve, are both prize-winning French guitarists who program their repertoire with a special consideration for music from their native country. As such, the concert opened with a transcription of César Franck’s Prelude, Fugue et Variations op. 18, originally composed for organ. A sign of things to come, the group’s interpretation of the work was graceful and bit reserved, carefully colored and delicately handled as if to retain the cathedral-like atmosphere Franck initially envisioned for his piece.
François de Fossa’s transcription of Haydn’s Quartetto op. 2, no. 2 followed, exploiting the duo’s ability to act as perfect foils for one another. The arrangement’s charming voices and characteristics fit perfectly well within the guitar duo format, featuring virtuosic scale runs and whispered accompaniments that rang out utterly clear in the resonant acoustics of Legacy Hall at Columbus State University. As varied as their repertoire may be, the Haydn was a perfect example of the duo’s obvious love for 18th and 19th century music. The interaction between Perroy and Jouve was subtle and clipped, an obvious result of their refined communication. Again, the music was a bit reserved and somewhat subdued, yet the beauty of their playing resided in this, the delicate way in which they handle the gestures and the spirit of this music.
Napoléon Coste’s Grand Duo Concertant followed, building upon the drama an intensity of the concert’s atmosphere. This was the highpoint of the concert, the duo’s quintessential statement of their beloved French repertoire. Perroy and Jouve were purposeful throughout the piece as they built the music up into something truly special for the final movement’s dramatic conclusion. While alive and empowered, the performance still had traces of the cool reservation that had become the concert’s signature theme.
The final piece on the program, Giuliani’s arrangement of the Barber of Seville overture, fit perfectly in line with the duo’s musical personality. Any guitar arrangement of popular pieces runs the risk of sounding out of place with the material, almost like someone trying to fit into clothes far too big or small for the occasion. Nonetheless, the duo handled the material with responsibility and grace, interpreting the famous lines and gestures guitaristically rather than operatically, making the music work for the instrument rather than forcing the guitar to speak in an unnatural manner. Jouve in particular shined in this final piece, exploiting a light touch that spoke volumes more than an exaggerated accent would have. Their encore, the third movement from Gnatalli’s Suite Retratos, returned to the space and lush atmosphere displayed in the Franck.
In a sense, the Paris Guitar Duo are utterly romantic and respectful players. They don’t attempt to transcend the guitar’s abilities but rather exploit the instrument’s gentle nature to color their repertoire, pushing the dynamics only when the music truly begs for a demanding voice. Their contemporaries may enhance the drama and the dance of the format’s repertoire, but Perroy and Jouve prefer to let the music speak for itself, interpreting more like narrators than actors.