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Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, July 2011

I may be among the last to have heard the Pekinel sisters play, as I generally have an aversion to duo pianists unless they be two outstanding pianists who get together on occasion. I asked to review this DVD because it was Jacques Loussier playing his jazz-Bach arrangements; I had no idea if the Pekinels would be able to perform jazz arrangements with the same rhythmic feeling that he did. They can, even though everything they play was written out (by Loussier) and none of it improvised.

This DVD is actually composed of three concerts: the full one with Loussier from 2001, a performance of the Bach Concerto, BWV 1062, with Colin Davis from 2007 (our old favorite, the duo-violin concerto in D Minor, arranged for two pianos), and the Rachmaninoff suite from a Lucerne concert in 2006. In each of these, the Pekinels’ kinetic energy, musical sweep, attention to nuance, and almost psychic synchronization startle the listener into their musical vortex. Both sisters are completely rapt or zoned in as they play, and Güher is constantly “talking” the music to herself. It was also refreshing to see two women who only marginally make up and, in fact, whose hands look like real women’s hands: short nails, unpainted, sinews tensing and relaxing as they attack the keys with gusto. How splendid to see women performers who do not wish to be presented as eye candy.

Of course, your reception of the Loussier concert will depend on whether or not you enjoy a jazz reinterpretation of Bach. Many do, others don’t. The Concerto BWV 1060, being written out, is closer in form to the original than the Concerto BWV 1063. Here, Loussier indulges in free improvisation, filling in between the Pekinels’ playing, with the result being more like a jazz concerto with Bachian structure than a Bach concerto with improvisation. In an extended improvisation on “Summer” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Loussier plays alone with his trio, and the results are riveting. Particularly outstanding is the bass solo by Vincent Charbonnier, in which he traverses the entire range of the strings, producing astounding subtle syncopations, note flutters, glissandi, and even strumming across the top end of the strings as if playing a bass guitar. Loussier nods and smiles in approval as the audience erupts with applause.

In the “straight” concerto conducted by Davis, even the conductor seems to get caught up in the whirlwind of the Pekinels’ interpretation, smiling in approval from the podium (something he rarely does) and, in the second movement, nudging the rhythm forward in the lower strings to support the rhythmic swing of their playing. The Rachmaninoff suite is captured in more reverberant sound than the other concerts, but there is no mistaking the authority and depth of their performance, though there is an unexpected jump cut from the second to the third piece.

Since I was unfamiliar with them or their lives, the 40-minute documentary—produced as a real film with narration (either by the sisters or by British actresses speaking their words; I’m not quite sure because you never actually see them speaking, and one would think that Turkish sisters raised in France would not have flawless British diction)—was utterly fascinating. Here are twin sisters for whom music has been, literally, their whole lives. Even when they were swept up in some of the social change and demonstrations of the late 1960s, they always returned to their music for solace and strength. I assume from the narrative that neither is married, or even has a significant other. Their world is completely wrapped up in music and each other, which probably explains the intense energy of their playing. For those for whom this review is of interest, this is an indispensable release.

John Sunier
Audiophile Audition, April 2011

This is the second concert video from the very talented Turkish piano twins. We covered their first one back in 2009. This one is not your usual straight-ahead two-piano recital, but opens with three selections from their appearance in 2001 at the Schwetzingen Festival in Germany with the Jacques Loussier Trio—famed for their Play Bach series of recordings over the years. The special collaboration produced two unique performances of familiar Bach multi-piano concertos—BWV 1060 and 1063—the first originally for two pianos and orchestra and the second a Triple Concerto. In between the Loussier Trio does their own arrangement of “Summer” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

We know that Bach’s music seems to work well on almost any instrument and in any style, but it’s a pleasant surprise to find that the swinging-Bach jazz-style arrangements of the Jacques Loussier Trio fit so well with these hoary two and three-piano concertos. Loussier didn’t just create plain transcriptions—these are more than that. New aspects of the works come out in these swinging interpretations. And unlike many classical artists who dip their toes into the jazz world, the Pekinels know how to swing. The Pekinel sisters were plenty familiar with the Concerto for Two Pianos since they had recorded it as a straight classical version with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra. They aren’t just classical artists letting their hair down for a laugh and indulging in some jazz—all five musicians involved here (Loussier himself sits out for the first concerto) are carefully planned and rehearsed and deliver a most enjoyable new look at some very hip Bach.

To give you an idea of what a straight-ahead Bach concerto for two pianos and strings sounds like with the Pekinels, the fourth selection on the disc is the Concerto in C minor BWV 1062, with Sir Colin Davis conducting the English Chamber Orchestra. The program is closed out with the Pekinels alone at their two pianos, in the complete Suite No. 1 “Fantasie-Tableaux” by Rachmaninov. Then instead of the interview in German with the Pekinels which was on their first DVD, we have a colorful half-hour documentary on the twin sisters, showing them at various concert appearances around the world. They handle most of the soundtrack commentary themselves, in English. The only criticism I would have of the fine documentary is the large amount of time devoted at the end to performances by some of the young students at their music school in Istanbul. I can understand why they wanted to feature that, but it didn’t make a fitting conclusion to the documentary.

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