Dynamic Duo Delivers Impassioned Franck and Sizzling Piazzolla


Vaughan Williams, Franck, Piazzolla: Michael DeBruyn (cello), Francesca Tortorello (piano), Cable Recital Hall, Canton, Ohio (USA), 14.1.2012 (TW)

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Six Studies in English Folksong (1926)
Cesar Franck: Sonata in A Major (1886)
Astor Piazzolla: Le Grande Tango (1982)

In many ways, the first performance of the 2012 Chesapeake Energy Casual Series of chamber music concerts by members of the Canton Symphony Orchestra (CSO) was an unfolded love story. CSO principal cellist Michael DeBruyn joined with pianist Francesca Tortorello to deliver a program that began with staid tenderness and steadily progressed into an unfettered outpouring of passion.

From the opening strains of Ralph Vaughan William’s lovely Six Studies in English Folksong, the duo articulated a warm, balanced aural blend that effectively imbued the entire work with a sense of lilting affection. They certainly took to heart the composer’s stated desire that these very brief, sweetly melodic songs be “…treated with love.”

The second work on the program was Cesar Franck’s iconic and challenging Sonata in A Major. In contrast to the gentle simplicity of the evening’s first selection, this work, composed in 1886 as a wedding gift to violinist Eugene Ysaye, is a gripping “story” of amorous beguilement and sensuality. Fittingly, the duo rose to the occasion with impressive sonority and rapturous grace.

This performance was a genuine partnership in crisp virtuosity, and both DeBruyn and Tortorello played with a consistent ardor that was downright infectious. Their seamless flow of give-and-take energy was particularly intense during the fiery second movement as they negotiated the intricate, cyclic thematic embellishments. In the third movement, their skillful intertwining of whimsy and drama took on an increasingly fluid and improvisatory feel. By the time they had completed the thunderous coda in the fourth movement – a powerfully ecstatic and triumphant ending – the clearly appreciative audience responded with mirthful applause.

Such emotional momentum was brought to even more soaring heights with the evening’s final work, Astor Piazzolla’s Le Grande Tango. Before taking his seat, DeBruyn made a point of removing his tie and placing it on the piano as Tortorello looked on approvingly. Or should I say…seductively? For this performance was quite simply among the most authoritative demonstrations of lusty technique melded with unleashed musical libido I’ve ever witnessed: enthralling, syncopated sizzle. The duo became the dance.

The sheer intensity and unity of purpose so eloquently presented in this work (and for that matter the entire program) could easily make one think that these gifted artists were literally married to the material. It is a sense made all the more reasonable when considering that DeBruyn and Tortorello are husband and wife in real life. Call it a marriage made in music.

Tom Wachunas

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