Duo Gemini: Road Movies
Plangent sounds and punchy rhythms permeate the five compositions for violin and piano played very impressively on this recording by Jean-Frédéric Molard and Jean-Noël Remiche, aka Duo Gemini.
John Adams’s music is often characterised by a strong kinetic drive and momentum, as heard in pieces which depict journeys of different kinds, such as A Short Ride in a Fast Machine (1986) and the more recent string quartet Fellow Traveler (2007). Composed in 1995, Road Movies evokes both the white-knuckle giddiness of the former while looking ahead to the nervous intensity of the latter. Despite its title, Road Movies opens in anything but a ‘relaxed’ style. Molard’s urgent, edgy violin ensures there’s no let-up until we arrive at a final, suspended harmonic. Some respite is afforded during a contemplative and atmospheric second movement, which flirts with blues-like gestures, before bursting into a fractious final movement that hurtles headlong by way of an insistent moto perpetuo figure towards a powerful, punchy ending. Molard and Remiche manage to navigate their way through the ferocious technical demands of Adams’s music with ease. Their approach to Michel Lysight’s no-nonsense Gemini Sonata (2011) is similar, although the sonata’s attempt to assimilate neo-classical elements into what seems a primarily minimalist style is not always convincing.
Such effusive intensity is not demanded in Arvo Pärt’s music, although there’s plenty of fire in Passacaglia – the least known of the three pieces heard here. Every note and gesture is weighed up carefully and executed with precision, too, in Spiegel im Spiegel but Fratres is a bit of a let-down. The tempo is too quick, a good half a minute faster than Kremer’s original recording and almost a minute faster than Daniel Hope’s more recent version on ‘Spheres’. It’s almost as if Molard and Remiche had recorded it immediately after the frenetic car-chase sequences of Road Movies. Some journeys are best taken at a slower pace.