The Philharmonie de Paris wished to celebrate Ivry Gitlis. The evening mixed music and some talks with the old master. I should immediately mention that if he is old of age (96), Gitlis is young at heart and full of wit.
After a brief introduction, the 1st part of the evening was dedicated to music, mainly classical, with a long list of friends or former pupils queuing to play. Some of them said a few words to the audience or more privately just to Ivry, and one even wrote some sort of a poem.
Pianist Itamar Golan and violinist Thomas Lefort played a Spanish Dance by Granados and a beautiful Kreisler arrangement of Dvořák’s Songs My Mother Taught Me, followed by Vahan Mardirossian and Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabédian playing a Khatchaturian Nocturne and his famous Sabre Dance. Still piano and violin, with Akane Sakai and Mayu Kishima, playing the wonderful Andante and the Allegrissimo of Prokofiev 1st Sonata.
Golan and fellow pianist Natsuko Inoue played 3 Yiddish pieces, before Martha Argerich, a long-time musical companion of Gitlis, accompanied by Akane Sakai, delivered an impeccable version of the Variations on a theme by Paganini composed by Witold Lutosławski. Argerich again, with fellow pianist Iddo Bar-Shaï, gave a remarkable interpretation of Debussy En blanc et noir. The central movement, Lent. Sombre, was truly exceptional!
The Philharmonie showed short videos that some musicians who played with Gitlis but who could not participate in the evening had shot to celebrate their friend: Zubin Mehta, Daniel Barenboim, Itzhak Perlman and last but not least Menahem Pressler, who is himself 95 and still active!
Next pieces were some of Béla Bartók Romanian folk dances and Borodin Nocturne from his 2nd Quartet both played by the David Oistrakh string Quartet.
The 1st part ended with Nicholas Angelich and Renaud Capuçon playing Chausson Sicilienne from his Concert with the Ebène Quartet.
After the pause, Emmanuel Hondré asked a few questions to the old master, letting him wander off topic, to the joy of the audience as Gitlis sense of humour is intact.
Gitlis had prepared a little surprise, with Martha Argerich, who played with Sergei Nakariakov on the flugelhorn, Schumann Fantasiestücke.
There was a bit more talk and humour, before the Sirba Octet played 4 Traditional pieces. Philharmonie – and before that Pleyel – habitués could recognize Philippe Berrod, one of the clarinet soloist of the Orchestre de Paris as well as their former double-bass soloist, Bernard Cazauran.
The Octet gave an encore with all the other musicians joining before Ivry Gitlis said a few touching words and all left.