Around France

Paris: Fiddlers Rock the Château

Almost four years ago I was introduced to a most charming young lady at a cafe in Uzes. She was visiting from Paris, celebrating the Christmas holidays with her family. 

Since she was the only person around the cafe table who spoke English, Matilda and I talked easily and became fast friends. Since that first meeting, we have stayed connected on Facebook and through occasional visits, either in Uzes or in Paris. The neatest thing about her friendship is that Matilda’s in her twenties and she invites me to do the coolest things. Like last night’s violin concert at the Château de Ville d’Avray, between Paris and Versailles, which featured Leo Ullman,  a young violinist who is a close friend of Matilda’s. 

Château de Ville d’Avray

Château de Ville d’Avray was built in 1776 on the site of an old manor house for Louis XVI. It was given by the King to  Marc-Antoine Thierry, his premier valet, in 1783. Thierry was killed in 1792, victim of a massacre during the Revolution. The Château then belonged to his widow and family until 1854 when it was acquired by Paul Cocteau, grandfather of Jean Cocteau, a well-known French writer and film director. 

Through its history, the Château has belonged to an prominent engineer (Suez Canal) and it was used as a hospital while occupied by Germany troops during WWII.  In 1969 it was acquired by the city for official and civic purposes. 

Roby Lakatos Ensemble and the Festival “Hommage Menuhin”

Last night the Château de Ville d’Avray was filled with “fiddler” music — an homage to Yehodi  Menuhin— performed by a quintet of stringed instrumentalists, led by the renowned Romanian violinist, Roby Lakatos. It is said that when Lakatos was a young violinist, he met Menuhin who was considered by many to be the greatest violinist of the 20th century.  The two were introduced at a Brussels restaurant where Lakatos was playing with a house band. Menuhin was dining at the restaurant and, impressed with the young player, asked Lakatos to play a piece by Liszt. Lakatos obliged and, in his vivacious, animated way, entertained the maestro with a rendition of the score that made a lasting impression. Lakatos became a legend on on his own, performing at symphony halls from London  to Sydney. 

To say the Lakotos concert last night was exciting would be an understatement. The very sight of Lakotos was an experience in itself. Sporting a brilliant, embossed gold and black jacket and a bicycle mustache, he seemed far from a concert violinist. When he touched the strings he was a magician. At times it seemed as if smoke was coming from inside the violin as Lakotos ripped from one melody to another with energy and vibrato. 

Gypsy, Hollywood, country, tango, polka, Brazilian, boss nova, oompha, Spanish and classical–he did it all. Sometimes in one song!  


An interesting find for the evening was that I learned about a instrument I’d never seen– the cymbalum. The Persian instrument from the twelfth century is contained in a trapezoidal box with 100 metal strings and played with small hammers. Discovered by gypsy musicians centuries later, the cymbalum makes sounds that range from keyboard piano to a rin-tin-tin drum. Fascinating!

What a night! Never mind I didn’t get back to my hotel until after midnight — following a trans-continental flight. It was worth it all, plus a meetup with precious Matilda. 

9 replies »

  1. Deborah looks like another wonderful adventure and what a lucky chance for a visit to that wonderful Chateau, plus the great violin concert with all the extra music. I just love the violin which I played for a number of years until it became a uncool for a boy of my age–how sad!!! Looking forward to Uzes and hear we have some new stores and some old ones gone as usual and part of social and economic progress. Now on to another election that could change the entire European world just as Brexit and Trump have done–let’s hope the French are more intelligent.

    • It seems very strange to be here in Paris on this important Election Day. It’ll be interesting. We’ll have lots to catch up on when we all get together again. Thanks for your comments.

  2. Thank you for a great post that transcends generations. That’s one of the things I love about the French! They really aren’t ageist. I noticed in the pics at the concert that there were varying ages. It’s great to see! You are blessed to have such friends!!

    • I agree! That, too is why I love France. I’ve been very fortunate to have young friends who make me feel like they really enjoy my company. This evening was a good example. Thank you!

    • Thank you so much, Elaine. It was a great evening. I’m posting the videos on Facebook so be sure to watch for them on the Barefoot Blogger page. I’m writing with my iPhone and can’t get the app to load videos on the blog for some reason. You’ll love hearing and seeing the performance!

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