© Hugues Charrier
The Lafitte Duo, formed by the twin sisters Isabelle and Florence Lafitte, has devoted itself to the duo repertoire of two pianos and of four, six and eight hands since 1974. Isabelle and Florence Lafitte have performed in some of the greatest international halls - such as the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Cologne and Hamburg Philharmonics, the Lucerne KKL, the Hong Kong Cultural Center - and they have recorded a sharp discography, based on their own transcriptions of symphonic and concertante works.
Their career has been sustained by a large-scale musicological research project, initiated by their dissertation during their studies at the CNSMD in Lyon, the Liszt Academy in Budapest and the Manhattan School of Music in New York. Since 1983, the Lafitte Duo has been compiling and expanding a Catalogue of works for two pianists and more, which currently contains nearly 7,000 works. The Catalogue, the result of meticulous investigations carried out in national libraries, societies of authors and publishing funds, was made freely available in digital form in 1999, by the developer and music lover Bertrand Abauzit.
The ackowledged contribution of the Lafitte Duo to the musical world has led to the involvement of private collectors and contemporary composers. The Catalogue has become a unique and precious reference for musicological research, used as a basis for numerous theses such as that of Nina Veronika Schumann, and by musicians and producers who wish to widen their programming. The Catalogue is classified by composers, countries, ensembles and multiple themes. The nationality of the composer, the publisher, the duration of work, some of the discography references, the nomenclature of duos with ensemble music as well as the dates of writing, creation and publication are all specified. The “Music for two pianists and more” Catalog project has the honor of being supported by the Katia and Marielle Labèque Foundation.
Preview - Duo Lafitte Catalog - "Music for two pianists and more” / Full catalog / update 2017 / by formation
5000 scores on request on the Contacts page.
Next update of the Duo Lafitte Catalog "Music for two pianists and more" in 2022.
Preview - Duo Lafitte Catalog - "Music for two pianists and more” / Full catalog / by composer
Preview - Duo Lafitte Catalog - "Music for two pianists and more” / by country
They will be available fully in a new paid version.
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Essaimer... At the confluences of worlds -
The new record from Isabelle & Florence Lafitte
A musical programme where the history of the world can be heard from the springs to the estuaries, and then opening onto the many-coloured ocean of influences and legacies. Within an emotional wholeness, dreamlike journeys offer new promises, transmute emotions into energies, opening the worlds to each other.
See all the discography here
© Hugues Charrier
The spirit of duo
Jacques Drillon, Musicologist and journalist with Le Nouvel Observateur
« I have known Isabelle and Florence Lafitte for twenty-five years, both personally and in a professional capacity. I’ve heard them play, worked with them and spent a great deal of time with them, indeed I’ve even collaborated with them myself, having written a number of transcriptions for two pianos that they have played and recorded. As a result, I’ve long since learned to admire the way they approach their profession, and also their musical role. These are two pianists who have sacrificed their personal careers to take up the cause of that rare and demanding combination of instruments, the piano duo.
The repertoire is huge, ranging from Bach to contemporary composers. It is also of exceptional quality: the sound balance of two pianos playing together is perfect, comparable to the string quartet in terms of strength and subtlety, and as a result the duo has attracted the greatest writers for the piano in every era since the instrument was invented: Bach, as mentioned earlier, but also Mozart, Chopin, Liszt, Brahms, Schumann, Rachmaninov, Ravel, Debussy and, among the moderns, Messiaen, Boulez, Kurtag... The list goes on: Wagner also wrote for two pianos, and so did Mahler. It is not, however, a repertoire that is much played, because pianists with their virtuosity tend, rightly or wrongly, to pursue a solo career. But the Lafitte sisters have worked hard throughout their lives to bring these works, both old and new, before the public, giving listeners an opportunity to enter into a musical world that is absolutely new and exceptionally rewarding.
Such has been their ‘mission’. Naturally, the fact that they are twins has been a help. One has to see them practising together to appreciate fully the degree of intimacy that binds them together. They attack the keyboard in the same way, they think together, their phrasing instinctively follows the same lines, they need only a glance to begin, or to alter pace and dynamics in perfect unison. As they work on a piece their discussions are always lengthy, and can become animated: they may share a common goal, but not necessarily the same idea of how to reach it. Anybody else would leave it be.
They never do. They know that, beyond their love of music, beyond their affection for each other, piano duo technique demands equality of expressive commitment and judiciously measured strength. As long as there are still points of contention, they will argue them.
Nothing is left to chance, nothing is left to whichever of the two, for whatever reason – weariness of the argument or sheer fatigue – might first concede. The best solution, not who is most combative of the two sisters, will decide the point.
Once in agreement, they begin in earnest, going deeply into every aspect – sound, touch, line – until all has become clear, like a photographer adjusting the lens until every detail is perfectly in focus. The process involves an enormous amount of work. It is exhausting, but inspiring, too: the results, in terms of effect, simultaneity, balance, elegance, power, are truly extraordinary. Everything has been taken into consideration, everything is ready. Right down to the slightest pedalling, everything has been discussed and decided on once and for all. Even the page-turning moments have been carefully studied so as to avoid disturbing the performance and enable the pages to be turned without the need for page-turners beside the players. And yet – no less remarkably – they each retain their own degree of spontaneity: in actual fact, their ability to accommodate the inspiration of the moment in their playing is only possible because of the firm foundations they have laid. The other sister will react to the new idea with absolute immediacy: it is at moments like these that their experience comes into play, together, once again, with the fact of their being twins. Such freedoms are of course premised on the rigour and strictness of their preparatory work. In this, composers and performers are alike: only through perfect awareness of the rules can they break free of them.
Audiences never fail to respond to these gifts, ensuring a triumphant reception wherever they play. Their listeners recognize them as accomplished, radiant, inspired and happy artists. Even the untrained ear can guess at it, can hear. After all, there is something about extreme quality which is self-evident, something that speaks and secures attention. This is the essence of how music can be communicated to others. Someone once said that heroism is not performing superhuman feats, but merely ‘doing what can be done’. By forming a piano duo, Isabelle and Florence Lafitte each gave up a brilliant individual career. By promoting this wonderful repertoire in countries all over the world, by dint of hard work, tenacity and talent, as well as by the grace of their good-humoured, natural charm, they have done what ‘could be done’, but few pianists have been willing to do. Is that not heroism? »