Will Duchon, pianist
Raul da Gama
World Music Report
Oct 14, 2017
Maurice Ravel: Valses nobles et sentimentales, M. 61: I. Modéré – Très franc – II. Assez lent – III. Assez animé – IV. Presque lent – V. Assez vif – VI. Moins vif – VII. Epilogue: Lent; La Valse; Frédéric Chopin: Waltz in C-sharp minor, Op. 64, No. 2; Waltz in F minor, Op. 70: No. 2; Waltz in E Minor, B. 56 (post); Heitor Villa-Lobos: Valsa da Dor; Franz Liszt: Valses oubliee No. 1; Valse-Impromptu; Mephisto Waltz No. 1; Clarice Assad: Slow Waltz (from “Impressions”); Fritz Kreisler-Sergey Rachmaninov: Leibesleid; Johannes Brahms: Waltz in A-flat major, Op. 39: No. 15; Will Duchon: pf
Although in 1580 the French philosopher Montaigne did not seem as perturbed by what he observed was a “sliding or gliding European dance” where the dancers held each other so closely that their faces touched, others were not so forgiving of what evolved into the sensuous, almost sexual “waltz” or La Valse. Kunz Haas famously wrote, “Now they are dancing the godless Weller or Spinner. The vigorous peasant dancer, following an instinctive knowledge of the weight of fall, utilises his surplus energy to press all his strength into the proper beat of the bar, thus intensifying his personal enjoyment in dancing”. But Will Duchon makes no such judgment although he captures all of the fiery sensuality; even the wanton sexuality that first drove the “vigorous peasant dancers” to distraction in his masterful interpretations of great waltzes on his disc entitled – as it simply should – La Valse.
You will surely find it in your heart to forgive Will Duchon for excluding Johann Strauss from this selection of 12 waltzes because the repertoire that has been included is faultless. The dis begins with two waltzes by Maurice Ravel including his choreographic poem, “La Valse”, a piece which famously turned the sensuality of the dance form into a vehicle for biting satire with music scarred by Ravel’s experiences of the World War I. Frédéric Chopin’s waltzes, greatly influenced by Carl Maria von Weber’s Invitation to the Dance, are not simply brilliant and sophisticated piano showpieces; they’re personal responses to the dance form, imaginative evocations of the gaiety and abandon, and sometimes sadness of the ballroom.
Heitor Villa-Lobos’ “Valsa da Dor” is a gushing poem driven by some ostinato but also containing melodies of a more folksy complexion within its eloquent, uniquely rhapsodic fervour. And where there is Chopin, surely there is also Franz Liszt. And what would Liszt pieces be if not seemingly orchestral works written for the piano, which are here played in all their virtuoso delight by Mr Duchon. Each of the three waltzes here is bursting with Romantic imagery, including evocations of violins, nightingales and the play of starlight on village dances. The Kreisler-Rachmaninov “Leibesleid” is redolent of technically challenging motifs as its starting point and weaving poetically from that. The Brahms is characterized by the palpable sense that the piano is borne on the wings of quasi-orchestral texture.
Perhaps the most significant item in the repertoire here is the “Slow Waltz” which is taken from the Brasilian musical wonder, Clarice Assad’s Impressions, a gorgeous suite for chamber orchestra. Miss Assad writes with the sense of her own unique Brasilian-ness in mind. She is also blessed with an astonishing understanding not only of her instrument – the piano – but for virtually every instrument in an orchestra and her music reflects this in every nuanced aspect. Will Duchon has made a masterful adaptation of this chamber piece for the piano and seems to play it with prophetic wisdom as he brings out the beauty of the work’s lyricism and introspective moments. Hardly surprisingly Miss Assad’s “Slow Waltz” – and indeed the eleven other waltzes on this disc are furtively captured, and re-released in all their absolute splendor by Will Duchon with such mastery as will be remembered for a long time to come.
Released – 2017
Label – Opus 30 Classics
Runtime – 1:11:10
March 15, 2012
Will Duchon is well known as the popular radio voice for WMNR on Friday nights (88.1 FM, 6-11 p.m.). What some listeners may not realize is that Duchon is also a virtuoso pianist. Without a word Sunday, Duchon let his fingers do all the talking in a bravura concert with Danbury Music Centre's music director, Ariel Rudiakov, leading Danbury Symphony Orchestra. The conversation, held at Ives Hall in Danbury, was emotional and evocative. In his broadcasting, Duchon is well versed in mining material from all over the musical spectrum. For this return engagement with DSO, Duchon chose Brahms' titanic Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15. Playing with dynamic mastery, Duchon developed complicated chord progressions and delivered with dynamite. He could also touch the heart with delicacy and finesse. Muscular cross-handed sections in the first movement were performed with laser sharp precision. Duchon and DSO were well integrated, echoing each other in the majestic themes. Going into the adagio second movement, Duchon and his Steinway concert grand piano were suitably warmed up for one of Brahms' most beautiful pieces. Some musical historians say it is a eulogy to his late mentor Robert Schumann, while others claim it to be a love song to Clara Schumann. We may never know, but what remains is definitely a gift for all to enjoy. Surging into the final movement, Duchon articulated romantic themes with flourish, and a nod to the horn section.
March 25, 2010
Last Saturday, the first day of spring, was ushered in with a thoroughly enjoyable recital at the Henderson Cultural Center at Hunt Hill Farm in New Milford. For many years the home of Ruth and Skitch Henderson has been better known as The Silo, where the culinary arts have flourished. Recently, they have been serving up some tasteful musical events in Skitch's old studio, which is now the Henderson Museum, and full of memorabilia. The rustic woodwork creates the perfect atmosphere and acoustics for chamber music in the country. Cellist Mary Costanza and pianist Will Duchon took advantage of the positive confluence of elements and gave a totally satisfying recital for those fortunate to be present. (read more)
November 6, 2008
"Soloist (and WMNR program announcer) Will Duchon brought the house down in a commanding presentation of "Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18" by Sergei Rachmaninov (1873 -- 1947). The hushed audience allowed Duchon to begin with those heavy-hearted opening chords, as the string section joined in giving an affirmation to the restorative power of music. Traversing through some dark passages, brightness ultimately prevailed. Duchon was deliberate in steering the steady development of the emotionally uplifting themes. Orchestral fireworks were set off as Duchon seemed to be hitting all 88 keys in rapid succession, while integrating well with every section of the DSO. The final release in the third movement has a sweeping cinematic quality that always brings "Lawrence of Arabia" to mind. At the end of this exhibition of Rachmaninov, the audience exploded into enthusiastic applause.
By Thomas Bohlert
East Hampton Star (January 13, 2011) Will Duchon made his third appearance at the Rogers Memorial Library in South¬ampton in a piano recital on Sunday, and there was a good house in spite of iffy weather. Many who were there had become his fans, and deservedly so. Mr. Duchon has a master’s degree in music performance from the State University at Purchase. He has performed three times at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall. In addition to recitals in the greater New York area, he has performed in Connecticut, Vermont, Florida, and Mexico, and as a soloist with the Danbury Symphony Orchestra. He recently released a CD, “Tabeaux,” of Rachmaninoff and Scriabin. He also hosts two programs, “Friday Evening Classics” and “The Night Cafe,” on WMNR, an NPR station in Connecticut. Mr. Duchon began with an engaging rendition of Beethoven’s Sonata in D from Op. 10. Parts of it are fairly Mozartian, but in the second movement, a beautifully poignant Largo, my favorite both in the composition and in the performance, one can hear the transition to a more mature, personal style. It ends in the minor — with a kind of rich harmonic progression that a friend of mine would have called “so minor.” Next were two works by Frederic Chopin. The Nocturne in B major, Op. 32, No. 1, is a quite lyrical work, with a curious ending going into harmonies that (again) explore the minor key and seem to upset or at least question the tranquillity of what went before. The Scherzo in C sharp minor, Op. 39, is a more turbulent composition, and the performer appropriately evoked a fuller sound from the piano than he had so far. It had glorious excitement, and, dramatic as it was, it served as a prelude to the main piece on the program. It should be noted that the piano, a small (about five-foot) Steinway, sounds wonderfully full in the reverberant room, and, interestingly, the bass and middle registers are especially resonant. There is a carpet under the piano, on an otherwise hard floor, which might serve well to help the clarity of the instrument, but I wondered if without the carpet the upper registers would be a better match for the lower. Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Sonata in B flat dates from 1913. Although both the composer and Vladimir Horowitz made shorter versions of it, Mr. Duchon chose the original one. When asked after the concert why he prefers the earlier version, he said he thought that the later, streamlined ones lost something, especially some of the buildup to the climactic points in the first movement. The sonata has been called monumental, and that is not an overstatement; the work is on a huge scale. It is highly complex, and Mr. Duchon’s masterful playing brought out its tumultuous and raging qualities and the ever-evolving layers of color, harmony, melody, and countermelody, bringing the listener along with every twist and turn. One might be tempted to say that the work is orchestral; but it is better to say that it is pianistic to the limit. His technique was fully up to its demands — at the end, his hands literally appeared as a blur. Performers often identify with a particular composer, and Rachmaninoff seemed to be Mr. Duchon’s composer. Someone in the audience said after the program that he seems to channel Rachmaninoff. Indeed he did! Mr. Duchon then played a quietly delicious encore, an arrangement of an English Christmas carol by Percy Grainger, which was a wonderful way to end the program and draw the season to a close as well.