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Inventions - Duos for violin and cello
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Selection from 20 Duos for violin and cello (arranged by Frederick Neumann): Invention No.2 in F major, BWV 779 [0:56]; Aria in C minor, (French Suite No.2) BWV 813 [2:38]; Prelude in D major, (Book I, The Well-tempered Clavier) BWV 850 [1:31]; Menuet in C minor, (French Suite No.2) BWV 813 [1:22]; Gavotte in G minor, (English Suite No.3) BWV 808 [3:20]; Gigue in A minor, (English Suite No.2) BWV 807 [2:31]; Invention No.13 in A minor, BWV 784 [1:11]
Hanns EISLER (1898-1962)
Duo for violin and cello, Op.7, No. 1 (1924) [6:54]
Karol BEFFA (b. 1973)
Masques I for violin and cello [9:52]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Mélodies populaires hongroises for violin and cello (arranged by Karl Kraeuter): (Allegro ironico [0:33]; Allegretto [0:35]; Moderato [1:04]; Choral: Andante [2:31]; Allegretto [0:34]; Con moto [0:24]; Vivace [0:33])
Karol BEFFA (b. 1973)
Masques II for violin and cello [12:57]
Gideon KLEIN (1919-1945)
Duo for violin and cello (c.1939-41) [8:40]
Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)
Duo for violin and cello, No.2, H371 (1958) [10:05]
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
Marche miniature viennoise for violin, cello & pianoA[3:19]
Renaud Capuçon (violin)
Gautier Capuçon (cello)
Aude Capuçon (piano)A
rec. 21-24 March, 2005, IRCAM, Paris, France. DDD 
VIRGIN CLASSICS 3326262 [72:58]


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Virgin Classics have released a second recital disc from brothers Renaud and Gautier Capuçon of duos for violin and cello. This follows hot on the heels of their ‘Face à face’: a collection of violin and cello duos by Kodály; Schulhoff; Tanguy; Halvorsen and Ghys/Servais (Virgin Classics 5455862 or also 5455762). ‘Inventions’ takes its title from Johann Sebastian Bach’s 2-Part Inventions but also included are a number of fascinating and sometimes challenging scores by six twentieth-century composers.

The first scores on this release are seven of Frederick Neumann’s arrangements of twenty of Bach’s keyboard scores as duos for violin and cello taken from the Two-Part Inventions, the first book of the Well-tempered Clavier, the French Suites and English Suites. Renaud Capuçon and his brother Gautier confidently sweep through these attractive arrangements with an innate understanding, performing with genuine affection, flair and dramatic energy.   

German-born composer Hanns Eisler composed his two movement Duo for violin and cello in 1924 before exile in the USA. In the first movement Renaud and Gautier adopt a robust tone with Eisler’s bold contrasts ranging from biting attack to claustrophobic airlessness. The second movement is given forthright and assertive playing with several episodes of aggression.        

Young French composer and pianist Karol Beffa was commissioned to write his two Masques for cello and violin that he dedicated to the two Capuçon brothers. With Masques I Renaud and Gautier perform Beffa’s lengthy and languid melodic lines with an interpretation where one is never certain if the music is comforting or unsettling. In Masques II Renaud and Gautier commence with calm and languid playing, in music that they gradually strengthen in power and tension.

Bartók’s seven Mélodies populaires hongroises, in Karl Kraeuter’s arrangement for violin and cello, are curious pieces. The short duration of each piece allows only a brief glimpse of the intended emotional character. I know nothing about the origin of these seven pieces and unfortunately the annotation gives virtually no information. In the hands of Renaud and Gautier the pieces are especially vibrant and expressively performed. The brothers’ performance of the Allegro ironico is forcefully sharp and melodic, the Allegretto is vivacious and dance-like, and the Moderato is given a slow and thoughtful reading. The rhapsodic nature of the Choral: Andante is strongly emphasised, allowing the score to develop a sinister, martial character. The Allegretto has a rather nondescript quality with playing from the duo that borders on the folk-like. The vivacious, skipping nature of the Con moto is highly impressive and the Vivace is buoyantly performed.

The career of Czech composer Gideon Klein was cut tragically short in his mid-twenties, leaving behind only twenty or so scores. After enduring internment in Auschwitz, Klein died in the Furstengrube concentration camp in Silesia in 1945. The Duo for violin and cello is cast in two movements, the second of which was left incomplete, seems to have been composed between 1939 and 1941. The first movement Allegro con fuoco, which is nearly three times as long as the second, is played by Renaud and Gautier with impressive energy and a frenetic activity of agitation and turmoil. In the sinister and bleak second movement the partnership convey a feeling of sheer desolation and anguish.

Martinů composed his Duo No. 2 for violin and cello, in 1958, in Switzerland just over a year before his death. A shortish score, classically designed in three movements, the music is less aggressive in character than his first Duo for violin and cello from thirty years earlier. Renaud and Gautier communicate a hectically dramatic impetus in the rapidly contrasting moods of the opening movement Allegretto. Their interpretation of the extended melodic lines of the central movement Adagio is yearning and reflective and in the final movement Poco allegro the brothers adopt a highly rhythmic and restless mood.    

In my collection I have an excellent alternative version of Martinů’s Duo No. 2 from Angell Quartet members; violinist Jan Peter Schmolck and cellist Richard May. Notable for its energy, drive and enviable degree of unity it was recorded in 1998 in Munich for Sanctuary Classics on their Resonance label CDRSN3075.

The final work here is the Marche miniature viennoise written by the celebrated violin virtuoso Fritz Kreisler. Here Renaud and Gautier are joined by their sister the pianist Aude Capuçon. They perform this short salon-weight score and imbue it with the infectious quality of the Viennese waltz. I believe that Renaud plays a 1721 Stradivarius that was once owned by Fritz Kreisler but we are not told if he is using that instrument here.

Recorded at IRCAM, Paris in 2005 the recorded sound is of a high quality. The presentation of the disc would have been enhanced by the inclusion of more comprehensive annotation. With the exception of the Bach and Bartók transcriptions, these absorbing and intriguing scores will not always make comfortable listening, especially those from Eisler and Klein, owing to their unsettling quality and emotional impact.

A fascinating and superbly performed recital from Renaud and Gautier Capuçon on Virgin Classics which is worthy of considerable attention. 

Michael Cookson 






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