Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Hernandez/Giacopuzzi Duo in concert


Juan-Miguel Hernandez and Jacopo Giacopuzzi play Rachmaninoff, Enescu, Schumann, Coletti, Liszt, and Franck

Juan-Miguel Hernandez
The January “The Interludes” recital at First Lutheran Church, Torrance, was given by the Hernandez/Giacopuzzi Duo, comprising the violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez and the pianist Jacopo Giacopuzzi. For the piano-solo opener the program listed just “Prelude” by Rachmaninoff, but fortunately Mr. Giacopuzzi identified what he was about to play as Op. 23 No. 4 in D, a particularly limpid member of that set, and setting an overall romantic mood for the recital.

For me, the principal attraction of the program was the inclusion of a work by Georges Enescu, one of the most grievously neglected “one-work” masters of the 20th century (i.e. if you heard his Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 you would almost certainly find it familiar; if you listened to anything else by him you almost certainly wouldn’t). Here we had his 1906 Concertstück for viola and piano which, while not major Enescu (try his visionary Third Symphony or the mighty opera Oedipe), still cast a haunting spell, perfectly conceived for the husky yet eloquent tones of the viola, and wonderfully projected at this recital by Mr. Hernandez.

Jacopo Giacopuzzi
What with the Thies Consort’s cracking performance of the Piano Quintet Op. 44, and Steven Vanhauwaert’s inclusion of two Novelletten in his more recent recital (both concerts previously reviewed here), we’ve been doing well on the Palos Verdes Peninsula for live Schumann lately, and the Hernandez/Giacopuzzi Duo followed up with the Adagio and Allegro Op. 70, originally for horn and piano but clearly suited just as well to the viola. The nostalgically romantic Adagio fitted in almost too well with the general tenor of the program so far. It shares the same territory as the slow movement of Schumann’s Symphony No. 2, but unlike that full-scale orchestral Adagio espressivo, this movement is quite short: almost, but not quite, merely an extended introduction to the Allegro.

A completely unfamiliar name to me followed, that of Paul Coletti, who proved to be Mr. Hernandez’s viola professor at the Colburn School. Coletti's From my Heart memorializes his father, including some of his favorite popular tunes, and the Duo’s affectionate performance projected its smoochy night-club mood as well as was possible in a mid-afternoon church environment.

The violist then left the stage clear for Mr. Giacopuzzi to play the last two scheduled items – and we were back once again with Schumann and also Liszt, who had very much been the focus of Mr Vanhauwaert’s recital previously reviewed. First there was yet more elegiac romance in Liszt’s arrangement of Schumann’s Widmung (“Dedication”), the first of the 25 songs included in the collection Myrthen Op. 25, and then finally some really bravura stuff. Liszt made very many transcriptions and arrangements of other composers’ music, and among the most immediately engaging must be his scintillating enwrapping of the quartet from Act 3 of Verdi’s Rigoletto in his extended “Paraphrase”, which Mr. Giacopuzzi played for all its worth.

That was the official end of the program, but it came as no surprise when the other member of the Duo returned for an encore. The choice of item was somewhat unexpected, though – nothing less than the finale of Franck’s wonderful Violin Sonata in A major, which lost none of its serenity and eloquence in the transcription for the violin’s larger cousin. I wonder if the Hernandez/Giacopuzzi Duo ever perform the whole sonata?


 “The Interludes”: First Lutheran Church, Torrance, 3.00pm, Saturday, January 14.

Photo credits: Juan-Miguel Hernandez, Jacopo Giacopuzzi

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