A souvenir of a memorable evening

Duo Fortin-Poirier
Concert Review by Anita Perry*

The South Okanagan Concert Society delivered a winner in their main concert series on Friday February 15 at the Venables Theatre in Oliver. The moment pianists Amelie Fortin and Marie-Christine Poirier stepped on stage as the effervescent Duo Fortin-Poirier, the atmosphere crackled with energy.

The evening opened with Edvard Grieg’s Valses Caprices. From the engaging sense of play to the subtleties of rubato, Duo Fortin-Poirier played with beautiful control and complete understanding of the character of these two waltzes. It was a perfect beginning to the evening

Next came two selections from Antonin Dvořák’s Legends. The composer’s intent was to encourage the listener to create their own legend of the imagination. Fortunately, the Duo Fortin-Poirier made this a delightful task in providing complete expressive control and effortless melodic voicing.

The program continued with Souvenirs by Samuel Barber. Here, the ability of the Duo Fortin-Poirier to reveal the essence of the music and the composer’s meaning really shone. The “Valse” was not only lilting, but the performers also swayed gracefully, their arms dancing in time to the music. They captured the boisterous and clownish character of “Schottische”, the precision required of “Galop”, and the comic essence of “Two Steps”. Unquestionably, the highlight of this set was “Pas de Deux”, a sensuous introspective melody with sinuous and melancholic lines. Thanks to the large screen projection of the players’ hands, the audience could see how sections of the music required the performers to cross hands over each other.

After intermission, the concert continued with a lovely work by Astor Piazzolla entitled Adios Nonino. Written upon the death of the composer’s father, the music is heartfelt and anguished. Given its complexity and use of rubato, there were times the pulse was completely obscured, yet Duo Fortin-Poirier’s entries were uniformly clean. A dramatic and passionate performance.

The following composition, Chroniques d’une coupe a blanc, (Chronicles of a Clear Cut) was a new work written especially for Duo Fortin-Poirier by Quebec composer Vanessa Marcoux. This three-part work describes the lifespan of a tree, from the moment it springs into being until machines arrive to cut it down. The score required the use of experimental techniques such as tapping on the keyboard cover and dampening strings inside the piano to create an evocative and moving work.

It was during Vocalise by Serge Rachmaninoff that being able to watch the performers’ movements on the large screen was especially fascinating. While continuing to pass beautiful melodic lines effortlessly and seamlessly one to the other, the two pianists were often playing on top of each others’ hands. Amazing and exquisite.

The evening finished with William Bolcom’s, “The Serpent’s Kiss” from The Garden of Eden. (See attached video.) This rag-time number was full of humour and drama, complete with foot stomping, tongue clicking and even some whistling. Altogether a delightful romp which brought the audience to its feet in a well-deserved standing ovation.

Amelie Fortin (L) and Marie-Christine Poirier (R) of Duo Fortin-Poirier. pose with young piano students David Cai and Christian Manz. Cai and Manz performed together in the foyer of Venables Theatre prior to the concert and delighted the audience with their talent. They had been encouraged and instructed in a Master Class by Fortin and Poirier earlier in the day along with two other impressive young duos who also provided pre-concert entertainment.

It is clear Duo Fortin-Poirier understands the inherent drama of music, the subtext of each musical thought and the essence of the composer’s message. Thanks to the South Okanagan Concert Society and its many sponsors for providing this inspiring evening of music.

*Anita Perry is a Summerland music teacher, composer and reviewer.