Seldom have two idiosyncratic talents combined with such wit and artistry as violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and cellist Sol Gabetta, long-time collaborators on the concert platform and friends off-stage, produce in this effervescent exercise in musical acrobatics.

Sol & Pat

Sol & Pat is a duo recital re-cast as a jugglers-on-a-high-wire circus act, with a dash of clowning adding colour to the excitement. It’s the product of two distinctive instrumental voices: the ever-quirky Kopatchinskaja, fresh from her Pierrot Lunaire, as electric as it was exotic (reviewed 20 April 2021), and Gabetta, a cellist who has developed her own distinctive style and here allows it full exuberant reign.

Central to the violin-cello repertoire, Ravel’s A Minor Sonata and Kodály’s D Minor Duo provide the chiaroscuro-contrast centrepieces. Ravel’s Debussy-dedicated Sonata is a vinegary, concentrated, pungently realised work. Kopatchinskaja and Gabetta treat its restless counterpoint with a deference matched by the deliberateness of their choices elsewhere, not least in the animated outer movements and achingly elongated third movement.

Both relish the gipsy-like euphoria that drives Kodály’s elaborately conceived Duo, pitching it as a wild fantasy, lacing its ecstatic euphoria with the exquisite agony of the AdagioAndante and keening, folk-like songfulness of the third movement.

It is in the companion pieces, ranging from Bach to Ligeti, that Sol & Pat turns in one scene-stealing, show-stopping performance after another, beginning with a delightfully zesty account, hinting at intoxication, of Leclair’s Tambourin in C, their laughter at its end an apt prelude to what follows.

Two excerpts from Jörg Widmann’s 24 Duos, skittishly quoting cinema’s iconic James Bond theme, provide a veritable playground for both instruments. There’s a relishable film noir menace to Julien-François Zbinden’s six-part La Fête au Village, a blend of the Big Top and silent film, too, in its deliciously drunken Fanfare and tottering Pont de Danse, its lullaby-leaning Soir a still-forming hangover.

And there’s something of the scrambled, dehydrated mind in Marcin Markowicz’s Interlude, a miniature lent maximum impact by Kopatchinskaja and Gabetta’s pointedly precise but athletically free-flowing playing that conjures a veritable maelstrom of sound.

Despite the pair admitting (and identifying), in the free-wheeling conversation that passes for a booklet note, to playing two wrong notes in Francesco Coll’s Rizoma, it still rings true with acerbic, judiciously paced bite.

Ligeti’s Hommage À Hilding Rosenberg is tautly realised, Xenakis’s Dhipli Zyia is delivered true to Kopatchinskaja’s description of it as dancing “with long and short strings, large and small, low and high. The rhythms are human ones, sometimes limping, sometimes bouncing on the wrong beat”.

Bach père et fils, JS and CPE, provide moments of relative respite, albeit bent through the peculiar prism of these two artists for whom eccentricity provides the key to unlock and reveal new facets. The son’s pointillistic pas de deux Presto and the father’s Prelude No 15 from his Well-Tempered Clavier, an appropriate leave-taking epilogue, are delivered with due and becoming balletic poise from both participants.

Quixotic, though it is, Sol & Pat is also a vivid display of fireworks and finesse from a crisply recorded duo keenly responsive to each other. Would that all duo performances had this same balance of acumen and adrenaline. 

Available on Apple Music

Composers: Various
Works: Violin and Cello Duos
Performers: Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Sol Gabetta
Label: Alpha Classics ALPHA757