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’s The 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.
Clare Elena Semes, 23, is a student at The Juilliard School where she is a student of Donald Weilerstein and Laurie Smukler. She has performed in numerous ensembles at Juilliard including the new music ensemble AXIOM and has served as concertmaster of the Juilliard Orchestra and the Juilliard Chamber Orchestra. She has performed as soloist with orchestras throughout the United States and Asia, including the Shanghai Philharmonic, Newark Symphony, Riverside Sinfonia, Ocean City Pops, Macau Youth Orchestra, among others. She has been heard on the popular NPR show From the Top, RTHK’s radio show Children’s Corner (Hong Kong), and at the Shanghai Concert Hall’s live Weekly Radio Broadcast. Upcoming engagements include solo appearances with the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes. Clare has performed as a founding member of the Kleio Quartet at the Rhinebeck Chamber Music Society, the Mann Chamber Music Institute, and the YoungArts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art series, and Kneisel Hall. She has also appeared at the Aspen Music Festival, Sarasota Music Festival, Music Academy of the West, and the Verbier Festival.
Acclaimed as a violinist of “compelling presence, fearless attack, and technical aplomb and bravado” (New London’s The Day), Chelsea Starbuck Smith, 23, is a young artist becoming recognized for her infectious enthusiasm for the violin. She has performed as solo and chamber artist in venues across the United States and abroad, including Avery Fisher Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall, Palais de Fontainebleau in France, Centre National des Arts in Ottawa and Peter Jay Sharp Theater at The Juilliard School. Chelsea’s solo debut in 2013 with the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra performing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto was called a “show-stopper”, and she was described by music critic Milton Moore as “dominating the stage and electrifying her audience with her high-powered and knowing performance.” She has also appeared at the Meadowmount School of Music, Sarasota Music Festival and Spoleto Festival USA. Her performances have been featured on WMNR Fine Arts Radio and Connecticut Public Radio. Ms. Smith is currently pursuing a Master of Music degree at The Juilliard School under the tutelage of David Chan and Laurie Smukler. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Juilliard where she studied with Sally Thomas, having previously studied with Ann Setzer at Juilliard’s Pre-College Division. Ms. Smith recently appeared on the 20th Century Fox Television series Glee, NYU Langone’s national television ad Fresh Thinking, and is the featured violinist on The String Fingers Band’s debut bluegrass album Don’t Forget.