Press Reviews

La Gazette Provencale
Games of musical filiation by the Duo Lafitte

“Inheritance, cross-breeding, filiation and interference often lie behind works of art that arise from the germination or rejection of seeds planted by outside influences. Music is no exception. The originality of the programme for two pianos by the Lafitte sisters was based on such games of reminiscence and filiation. Scorning audience-pulling easy listening or musical ready-mades, their intelligence and high culture equip them to take a structuralist approach to repertoire. This they do with shrewd selections that show up revelatory forms of connivance, remote from any academic lineage. They take audiences on a tour of dazzling purity of style, with instrumental command that unites rhythm, volume, timbre and depth of musical argument. The skilfully exposed metamorphoses in composition point up the degrees of kinship linking certain pieces by Liszt and Chopin to Ravel and Debussy.

The reading by Isabelle and Florence Lafitte of “Ma Mère l’Oye” for piano duet went beyond the register of the fairy tale, steeping the piece in the poignant nostalgia for childhood that haunted Ravel throughout his life even when he tried to conceal it, as in the Sites auriculaires (the Habanera, written at the age of 20, and Entre Cloches, buzzing with sounds making space). They went back to a duet for Liszt’s Nocturne after Petrarch’s Sonnet No. 104, a gentle sketch, an elegiac reverie. For two pianos again, Chopin’s Rondo in C was of quite another amplitude, blending the violence of its chords with the charm of luminous colours.

Ravel’s transcription for 2 pianos of the Three Nocturnes by Debussy was treated to a performance that was quite dazzling in sonority, declaring a spiritual correspondence with Baudelaire. For Nuages, a smooth flow troubled by brief moments of menace; for “Fetes”, the impressionist vigour of the paintings of Renoir or Monet, embellished by the procession of the brass notes; in the ebb and flow of “Sirènes”, the piano timbre offered a blurred equivalent of the vocal evocation of the swooning alabaster figures, transforming the orchestral version.

Lastly, the magic of Liszt’s writing for two pianos was made consummately manifest by the Lafitte sisters in the Réminiscences de Don Juan. They exalted its contrasts magnificently, from the satanic cemetery scene to the final damnation, the celebration of Zerlina’s seducer and the libertine arrogance of the champagne aria. Isabelle and Florence Lafitte performed the paraphrase with the transcendent virtuosity and orchestral power of a musical Delacroix.”

- Robert Sabon (31 JAN 05)

***

Quiet virtuosity
Concert highlights: the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra

“(…) the soloists for the evening fitted seamlessly into this delicate pattern of sound. The twin sisters from France, Isabelle and Florence Lafitte, tackled Mozart’s Double Concerto in E flat major KV 365 with a deliberate, unobtrusive performance, keeping the tempo very slow in the first two movements. The result was a curiously soft-focus effect, to be echoed later in the subsequent Rondo in C major by Fryderyk Chopin.

Nonetheless, their phrasing and articulation was as neatly accurate as their timing and ensemble was perfect, in what amounted to musicianship of quiet virtuosity.”
- APR 3, 2003

***

Heavenly even with the violins
The Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra shines in the Philharmonic Hall
“(…) Framed by the two Mozart Symphonies so rapturously received by the audience was a costly gem from the 20th century repertoire: Francis Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, written in 1932 as a kind of tribute to the great Viennese master. The understanding between twin sisters Isabelle and Florence Lafitte at the pianos (as also with conductor Soudant and the sensitive accompaniment of the orchestra) was quite brilliant: they drew sequences of sometimes Mozartian elegance from their instruments, with a highly cultured touch that was heard again in their encore, “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from The Magic Flute.”

- Curt J. Diederichs (MAR 29, 2003)

***

Un duo a toute epreuve
“L’Orchestre national d’Ile-de-France et son chef Jacques Mercier accueillent le duo de pianos Isabelle et Florence Lafitte (…). Soeurs jumelles, Isabelle et Florence Lafitte possedent la connivence d’une irremplacable pratique commune. Dans le Concerto pour deux pianos de Poulenc, elles mettent en valeur l’esprit et la poesie qui impregnent cette page avec un enthousiasme et un don de soi communicatifs.

En creation mondiale, Les Meteores pour deux pianos et orchestre d’Alain Louvier leur donnent l’occasion de devoiler un temperament a toute epreuve face a un orchestre volontairement chaotique (un theme a variations eclatees) qui demande aux solistes un engagement (attaque du clavier agressive a l’aide des doigts, des paumes, des poings, des avant-bras) mais aussi une attention de tous les instants.”

- Michel le Naour (Avril 1999)

***

Splendid nights at Cultural Centre
Review: The Hong Kong Philharmonic and the Duo Lafitte (Soloists) play Tippett, Poulenc and Tchaikowsky at the Cultural Centre.

“David Atherton was seen with a young blond French woman on either arm last Saturday evening. What – some sleazy scandal? Not really. But I do assure you that if you don’t go to the Cultural Centre on Saturday evenings these days you’re always missing something sensational.

The blond ladies were the Duo Lafitte, of fine vintage, who were trained by another great name in French wines, this time champagne, one of the Heidsiecks. Fortunately, champagne would have been just the drink to toast the evening (…). But I wouldn’t give up another evening at the Cultural Centre with the Hong Kong Philharmonic.

The Duo Lafitte were simply superb, (…). The chosen work for the duo was Poulenc’s alternately dramatically uplifting, then searingly haunting Concerto For Two Pianos. This was an assured, subtle, wholly convincing performance, with the orchestra closely matching the duo’s expertise and commitment.”

- Dr. George Adams (DEC 5, 1998)