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  © Laurent Vicenzotti

« I was struck by their innate musicality, the accuracy of their expression, the quality of their execution which reveal exceptional mastery for such young artists. I was not the only one to be impressed by the twins profound understanding... »  Paul Tortelier

Isabelle and Florence Lafitte make up a piano duo founded on a common passion for music. When, at the age of 13, they first began giving concerts and broadcasting on France-Musique, they discovered the joy of sharing in a musical dialogue between two pianos. It was the start of a lasting rapport dedicated to the repertoire for ‘two pianos and more’. Born into a family of artists, sculptors, painters, architects, engravers and poets, the sisters spent their early years in Provence. It was an unusual childhood, devoted to art and without regular schooling, at the foot of the Montagne Sainte-Victoire painted by Cézanne.

They were still children when they decided on careers as concert pianists. At the age of 7, Isabelle began to develop her compositional and improvisational gifts. This led to her enrolling for classes in music theory and composition, in which she excelled as a junior pupil, gaining many accolades, and at the age of 15 she was admitted as a member of the French performing rights society SACEM. Florence concentrated on her voice, training as a singer in Budapest and New York. In France, they gained places at the newly-founded CNSMD Conservatoire in Lyons, an establishment which cultivated a unique and privileged relationship between a restricted number of pupils and its outstanding teaching staff. The course was a revolution on the French music scene of the time, with an expanded curriculum that included the History of Art and Civilisations, Ethno-Musicology, Improvisation….

This intense formative experience qualified them to receive several years of support from the French government, including a Lavoisier excellence grant: at the Liszt Academy in Budapest, behind the ‘Iron Curtain’, they were plunged into a musical, human and social experience that bore the marks of a turbulent and dramatic history. Later, in New York, they became involved with jazz and electroacoustic music, studying at the Manhattan School of Music in a state of symbiosis with the intellectual fervour permeating that great metropolis. In a context so rich in creativity and multi-cultural cross-fertilisation, they began to become aware of the full extent of the repertoire for two pianists. The initial result was to begin compiling a catalogue of over 10,000 compositions, partly available on-line from their website www.duolafitte.com, which provides many duo performers with material for their recitals.

The French composers Karol Beffa, Tristan Patrice Challulau, Michel Delplace, Michel Legrand, Alain Louvier, Patrice Sciortino, Pascal Zavaro and the American Paul Brust have written pieces especially for them, which they have performed as world premieres in St. Petersburg and in Miami, Florida, as well as on tour in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Indonesia. Captivated by the music of Bali, they brought the work of the pioneering and unjustly neglected composer Colin McPhee to public notice in their concerts in Russia and Taiwan. This kind of musical research is important to the Duo Lafitte, and is carried on in transcriptions of works entrusted to them by others (Schubert and Mozart by Jacques Drillon) or completed by Isabelle (Schumann and Mozart for the Orange Foundation; Falla for the Festival de la Chaise-Dieu; Sheherazade by Rimsky Korsakov and Stenka Razin by Glazunov for the centenary of the Hanoi Opera House). Isabelle has also herself composed music for the Duo, writing the ballet score Nega/c/tive B.D., commissioned by Japanese choreographer Ryuichi Arisaka and performed in Russia, France and Serbia.

Isabelle and Florence Lafitte have designed and staged ‘sound and light’ concerts. With the filmmaker Marika af Trolle they have made films that have been presented in Canada, Bulgaria, Ireland, the USA, Japan and Sweden, featuring their performances of Schubert and Grieg (with the Cullberg Ballet), Mozart (an award-winner on the Fuji Television Network in Japan), Rachmaninov…. On French State television, the Duo has been featured by presenter Alain Duault, in a programme dedicated to their transcription of The Magic Flute.

Hopes and aspirations
Florence: to make dreams come true. Like the one of a wildly hopeful child who used to dance to Mozart’s piano concertos, and which came to pass when she played with the Mozarteum Orchestra of Salzburg, on tour in Germany.
To put the piano duo at the heart of flagship programming at venues like the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Luxembourg Philharmonie, the Rudolfinum in Prague, the Hong-Kong Cultural Center, the Manaus Opera House, the Musikhalle Hamburg, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris,  the Chiang Kai-Shek Cultural Center and Novel Hall for Performing Arts in Taipei…; on tour in Australia, Brazil, New Caledonia, Taiwan…; and in concert halls as remarkable for their acoustics as for their architecture, such as the KKL in Lucerne, the Philharmonie in Cologne, the Gasteig centre in Munich, the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels...

Isabelle: to improvise, to compose. Since she was a very young child, improvisation and composition have been the cornerstones of her passion for music. The flowering of creative thought led her to choose a life entirely inspired by music.
To share. Performing in aid of humanitarian relief has been a logical consequence (Operation Orange/Sister Emmanuelle in 2001, 2002, 2006; Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque, a global charity for children with heart defects; Telethon; Children in Lebanon…).
To work for harmony in human affairs. To wonder at the talents of others. To develop a work force with agents, concert organizers, musician friends.
One lesson learned from being a twin has been to appreciate teamwork.

Highlights of the coming season
The Duo Lafitte has again been invited to perform at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, in April 2013, in the Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra by Poulenc, conducted by James Gaffigan.
With the Duo Vernet-Meckler, they are to make the world premiere recording of the two Brahms piano concertos, in the version for eight hands for piano and organ.

October 2012

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Listen to Duo Lafitte : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkWIWRCUAlQ


For further information please visit www.duolafitte.com