By Lawrence Budmen

Music for two pianos is a staple part of Miami’s classical music diet. The Concert Association brought Katia and Marielle Labeque to the Jackie Gleason Theater on Tuesday for a recital that elevated a dietary staple to gourmet fare. This charismatic team is probably the best known piano duo in the world and for good reason. The Labeque sisters combine glamour and showmanship with that rare ability to turn a score into musical gold. Their supple, finely graded sense of dynamics and instinctive sense of musical line and structure set them apart from other piano duos.

The Labeques’s version of Mozart’s Sonata in D Major was the epitome of Gallic elegance. Like the French conductors Monteux and Boulez, the Labeques bring aristocratic élan to Mozart’s most minute gestures. In the sonata’s final Molto allegro, the Labeques’s vigorous attack and incisive shaping of the whirling musical line were light years ahead of most interpretations of this familiar score. 

The two piano version of Brahms’s Hungarian Dances was originally intended for private performance. The Labeque sisters penetrated the gypsy soul of this intoxicating music. The languorous Dance No.17 in F-sharp minor was scintillatingly soft and yearning. A rainbow of pastel colors issued from the two keyboards. 

Three Movements in the Shape of a Pear by Erik Satie reveals the essence of that eccentric genius – the quirky melding of delicate classicism and raucous music hall populism. The score’s opening movement is a beguiling play on arabesques, typical of French composers’ fascination with Middle Eastern influences. The Labeque sisters played this dizzying work with sensuous beauty and flair.

The original two piano version of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue was rendered with bouncy verve. Wild, dazzling keyboard runs brought the Labeque sisters’ Gershwin to a pianistic photo finish. A stunning tour de force by Michel Camilo concluded the concert with jazzy bravura figurations – played by the Labeques with French restraint and irresistible joie de vie. 

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