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Laurent Korcia – Doubles jeux
Django REINHARDT (1910–1953)/Stéphane GRAPPELLI (1908–1997)
1. Minor Swing [2:54]
Michel PORTAL (b. 1935)
2. Minor Waltz [3:56]
Maurice RAVEL (1875–1937)
3. Blues [5:30]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862–1918)
Sonata for violin and piano (1916-17)
4. Allegro vivo [4:34]
5. Intermède. Fantasque et léger [4:08]
6. Finale. Très animé [4:36]
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835–1880)
7. Étude-caprice No. 1 Op. 18 [4:00]
Laurent KORCIA (b. 1964)
8. Minor tango [2:56]
Béla BARTÓK (1881–1945)
Duos for 2 violins, Sz.98:
9. No. 35 [1:11]
10. No. 18 [0:48]
11. No. 28 [2:03]
12. No. 44 [1:45]
Gideon KLEIN (1919–1945)
13. Duo: Allegro con fuoco [4:36]
14. Tears [3:29]
Michel LEGRAND (b. 1932)
15. Les parapluies de Cherbourg (theme) [3:23]
Jules MASSENET (1842–1912)
16. Elégie [3:05]
Luigi DENZA (1846–1922)
17. Si vous l’aviez compris [3:25]
Laurent Korcia (violin)
Florin Niculescu (violin) (1, 14, 15), Christophe Lartilleux (guitar)(1, 14, 15), Jean-Philippe Viret (double bass) (1, 14, 15), Michel Portal (bandonéon) (2, 8), Pierre Boussaguet (double bass) (2, 8), Michael Wendeberg (piano) (3-6, 16, 17), Nemanja Radulovic (violin) (7, 9-12), Tatjana Vassiljeva (cello) (13), Jean-Louis Aubert (vocals) (16, 17)
No recording dates or venues given.
NAÏVE V 5066 [57:12]

The title of this album, Doubles jeux, may have double connotations. Literally it translates as double play and refers no doubt to the fact that not only is this to a great extent music for two, duos, but also that the musicians play double roles and move into fields they are not usually associated with. Take Michel Portal, for instance: one of the world’s greatest classical clarinettists, who also with pleasure plays jazz – also on saxophone – and, as here, the bandoneón, the original German relative to the accordion, brought by German immigrants to Argentina, where it found a central place in the tango music. Then there’s Jean-Louis Aubert, leading French pop-rock singer, who here indulges in romantic songs from the Caruso repertoire. It is also the mix – call it juxtaposition – of music from different genres: tunes from the repertoire of Le Hot Club de France (tracks 1 and 14) versus Debussy’s violin sonata; improvisations on Michel Legrand’s Les parapluies de Cherbourg versus the Schönberg and Haba-inspired duo by the Jewish Czech composer Gideon Klein, who died aged 26 in a concentration camp just before the end of WW2. The pivot of the whole project, Laurent Korcia, although classically schooled and primarily active within this field, also constantly crosses barriers, walking in and out of the many differently furnished rooms of this play house. “Cross-over”, a buzz word today, may be an applicable term, were it not that in my vocabulary this implies something casual. Maybe “border-less” an expression I used a couple of years ago concerning a disc with Saffire – The Australian Guitar Quartet (see review) would be a more appropriate description. 

The meeting with a jazz violinist and a classical one is of course nothing new. Stéphane Grappelli and Yehudi Menuhin made a series of LPs more than 30 years ago for EMI along the same lines. Menuhin was certainly one of the most open-minded of classical musicians, being engaged in World Music long before that was a common concept. Maybe Korcia and Florin Niculescu are on even more equal terms – it seems that Laurent Korcia has a more down-to-earth approach to the jazz idiom, his bow digs deeper into the strings with a raw, animal power, sacrificing tonal beauty for expressiveness. The opening number, Minor Swing, has more of the smoky jazz club of the 1930s than the refined salon jazz of certain epigones. Ravel’s Blues (tr. 3) is in itself cross-over; we know the composer’s genuine interest in jazz – here we can hear both banjo and percussion and it is played with energy and intensity. Even more interesting are the Bartók duos, which are a micro-cosmos of sounds, rhythms and varying moods. I have for many years treasured an EMI LP with Perlman and Zukerman playing the whole group. Without making direct comparisons I feel that Korcia and Radulovic are that much less refined, that much more earthbound, finding their inspiration where Bartók found his: among the genuine rural fiddlers. 

There are echoes of Bartók also in Klein’s deeply moving, even partially frightening Duo. Here is no redeeming beauty for the sake of beauty just seemingly open wounds. This was for me the real find. But it was also the first time I had fully realised what a formidable masterpiece Debussy’s violin sonata is, when played as whole-heartedly as here, blowing away any feeling of impressionistic sophistication, of bloodless fragility. They lift the veil and say: “Hey! Listen! This is expressionist music about life and death.” 

Wieniawski is so often referred to as a violin virtuoso writing virtuoso violin music for virtuoso violinists. There is very little of fireworks in this Étude-caprice but all the more of inward melancholy. 

The two concluding numbers with guest vocalist Jean-Louis Aubert also build perspective. In 1912, the year of Massenet’s death, his Élégie was recorded by the world’s greatest tenor, Enrico Caruso and the fabulous young Ukrainian violinist Mischa Elman. Nothing can be further removed from that strictly classical approach than Aubert’s closely-miked and smoky crooning but it has a fascination and validity of its own. And so has the melodically enticing song by Luigi Denza, best known for Funiculì, Funiculà, the song about the Vesuvius funicular. We are used to hearing Pavarotti and others in his songs but if Anne Sofie von Otter can sing Elvis Costello and ABBA, and Sting can devote a whole disc to John Dowland’s 17th century songs, why can’t Jean-Louis Aubert tackle Caruso repertoire? It’s all a matter of “double play”.

Have I in any way kept it as a secret that I liked this disc? I hope not. Removing borders, opening doors, being open-minded – that’s what this collection is about. One could argue that the over-riding mood is one of gloominess and tears but the joy of the music-making is so clearly visible through those tears and the contrasts of styles, genres and instrumental combinations so many-faceted that one rather feels uplifted after spending just under one hour in the company of these musicians (by the way, the cover says playing time 57:12 but my player stopped at 54:45!). The people who surround Laurent Korcia are all superb, with an extra rosette to pianist Michael Wendeberg, the recording is fairly close and immediate, which probably also adds to the nearness to the music. Korcia also contributes a highly personal discourse on the music, and the song texts are printed – but only in French.

I don’t think I am double-crossing anyone by saying that this double play should be attractive to everyone but the most single-minded.

Göran Forsling 

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