Les Deux
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Les Deux

New York City, New York, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | SELF

New York City, New York, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2013
Duo Classical Alternative




"Les Deux Hits a High Note in Brooklyn"

Pull up a chair, or a bit of rug. Grab a beer. Feel free to use your cell phone to record or take pictures. Welcome to the world of the modern classical concert. Concert experiences are being re-imagined today to deviate from the stereotyped images of bourgeoisie couples in tuxes sipping on expensive wine and talking about high art forms. Music can be enjoyed in any setting, and organizations such as Groupmuse are bringing back chamber music concerts to their origins: small gatherings usually held in someone’s living room. With good conversation, maybe a few good drinks, and always some good music, it's a formula of enjoyment for all.

On Friday night at Brooklyn’s Green Building, a wide array of 20-30 something year olds gathered for a slightly larger chamber music experience. Once in a while, Groupmuse hosts a Massive Muse, with capacities of 200+. The Green Building in Brooklyn is very fitting for this type of event, with exposed brick walls and dramatic chandeliers hanging from the towering ceiling. The performance of the night featured Les Deux, comprised of Juilliard violinists Clara Elena Semes and Chelsea Starbuck Smith.

Semes and Smith are unarguably gifted performers with a keen ear for arranging. Noting a lack of violin duo repertoire, the ambitious 23 year-olds set out to make their own repertoire. Making arrangements from the old classics of Chopin and Debussy to the contemporary classics of Benny Goodman and the Beatles, there’s nothing these two won’t tackle. Their excitement to engage in both the familiar and the unknown presents a highly enjoyable listening experience for their audiences.

Les Deux was accompanied by a light installation from visual artist Raul Garza Gonzalez. Normally, I’m a big fan of light installations, but this one I could have done without. Semes and Smith are both energetic performers, and I would have been much happier just watching them perform, clearly in their element. Instead, they were in the dark with the accents of the light show occurring on white fabric overhead. The lights did not seem to match the mood of the music, and only truly synced up once or twice. It would have more enjoyable if the light projections were done either much larger on the back wall with the violinists lit up front, or if it was removed altogether. Many think that the classic art of simplicity is lost on Millennials, but this is not the case. We were already in a gorgeous converted warehouse, comfortably seated and comfortably drinking. We didn’t need lights. We just wanted to appreciate these magnificent violinists.

Les Deux’s arrangements hit on everything from Debussy, Ravel, and Chopin to The Beatles and Billy Joel. A personal favorite was their arrangement of The Beatles Norwegian Woods, which held a beautifully touching essence of nostalgia. Probably most enjoyable of all was just seeing how much these two clearly love performing. It’s all too often to see an individual who has been the first chair violinist in an orchestra for 25 years loose their sense of wonderment with music. But these fresh-faced young women clearly are passionate about what they do and revel in the performance.

The work Groupmuse is doing to re-instate chamber concerts the way they were intended to be heard is admirable indeed. The Green Building provided an enchanting backdrop to an exchanging evening. I, for one, can’t wait to sign up for the next event.

Who: Les Deux, presented by Groupmuse
What: Chamber Music
Where: The Green Building, Brooklyn
How: GroupMuse.com
When: Friday, June 29, 2015. Check on their website for the next Massive Muse event! - NY Examiner

"Violin duo Les Deux at Live Lunch Break"

The thing about violin prodigies: they can make a person feel foolish.
"Get over it," I say, reminding myself that, when I was 22, I built a plastic model replica of the Frankenstein monster and painted him a posthumous blue-green!

Thus buoyed, I'm looking forward to the inaugural Live Lunch Break of the summer season at noon today in New London's Telegraph Record Store - featuring Les Deux. The violin duo comprises the precociously and charmingly talented Clare Elena Semes and Chelsea Starbuck Smith - both Juilliard graduates whose work together involves not just fluid instrumental chops but their own astounding transcriptions of classical and contemporary favorites. Area classical music fans will remember Starbuck Smith from her dazzling 2013 solo debut, when she performed Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto with the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra.

Given their scope and skill, then, any Les Deux program might range from "Norwegian Wood" and "Stars and Stripes Forever" to Chopin piano preludes, Rachmaninoff or even variations on Bernstein's "West Side Story."

The Les Deux concert was supposed to be first of the 2014 Live Lunch Break outdoor shows in the Hygienic Arts Park. Last summer's performances there became an anticipated Thursday noontime Mecca for downtown New London, but today's weather forecast, calling for heavy thunderstorms, moves Les Deux inside the Telegraph.
Next week's Lunch Break, featuring The Rivergods, remains scheduled for the Art Park. Captain's Pizza will return as the series' official sustenance-provider.
- RICK KOSTER - Connecticut's The Day


Still working on that hot first release.



Known for their dazzling original arrangements, creative and interactive performing style, and on-stage charisma, the virtuosic violin duo Les Deux offers riveting performances for today’s edgy concert scene.  Hailed by the New York Examiner as "unarguably gifted with a keen ear for arranging", founding members Clare Elena Semes and Chelsea Starbuck Smith present to audiences a diverse repertoire from Bach to Chopin, Bernstein to the Beatles.   

The 2015 season continued a run of coast-to-coast debuts for the duo including featured performances at Rockwood Music Hall, Music Academy of the West, Pianos NYC, and the Santa Barbara Public Market.  In addition to performing all-new original arrangements, the duo premiered a new violin duo, Rhapsody, written for them by Juilliard Doctoral composer Paul Frucht.

Last season, the duo traveled around the United States – first at New York City’s Klavierhaus on 52nd Street presented by Project 142, and later at the Funk Zone in downtown Santa Barbara, CA as a part of Music Academy of the West’s Golf Invitational.  Other feature performances included appearances at Music Academy of the West’s Cabaret Gala, and at Juilliard’s Beyond the Machine Electronics Festival and ChamberFEST series.  Among the season’s world premieres was the duo’s own conception, PROJECT VARIATION – a composition-collaboration between Les Deux and 10 New York City-based composers based on a theme from Holst’sThe Planets.   

Les Deux's original arrangements and improvisations have been featured on soundtracks and promotional material for the Emmy®winning series Frankie Cooks, the exclusive NYC supper club Vivonne, and Chloë Sevigny's NYC Fashion Week line produced by Opening Ceremony.

Chelsea and Clare met in 2010 as undergraduates at The Juilliard School and have been performing together since.  Playing genres from classical to folk to electronic, Les Deux burst onto the scene when they were a “planned surprise” at the Music Academy of the West’s 2013 July 4th Picnic Concert – running onto the stage and interrupting the concert with a “stirring rendition” (Music Academy of the West) of Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever.  They have performed in venues across the United States, including Hahn Hall at The Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, Paul Hall at The Juilliard School, 180 Maiden Lane in downtown New York City, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.  In 2015, the duo was named a recipient of Juilliard's Entrepreneurship Grant for their exciting work and achievement in the arts.  Les Deux is also dedicated to educational outreach around the Tri-state area where they present free young people’s concerts at schools such as P.S. 84 and Temple Emanu-El as well as Danbury Public Library in Connecticut.  Both members are Gluck Community Service Fellows at The Juilliard School and perform at local hospitals and rehab facilities. 

The duo’s name draws inspiration from the artistic collective of the 1920s, Les Six, a group of six French composers working in Montparnasse in Paris whose avant-garde simplicity is often seen as a reaction against the heavy romantic and lush impressionistic styles of their day.  Chelsea and Clare like to think of their partnership as an artist collective of their own – turning fun and casual time together into music and art.

Band Members