One cannot fail to draw parallels between
Gabetta and her RCA counterpart from the 1980s and early
1990s the Israel-born, naturalized Canadian Ofra Harnoy.
The glamorous Harnoy with her glorious blonde/brunette tresses
was heavily marketed by the record label, often seen posing
seductively over her cello in a low cut ball gown. I hope
that the prestigious RCA do not see fit to promote the young
Sol Gabetta in the same way. On the evidence of this desirable
recording if her superb playing was the only factor necessary
to sell discs there is no need for tawdry marketing gimmicks.
The cosmopolitan Gabetta was born in Argentina
in 1981 into
a Franco-Russian family. She then lived in Madrid for two
years and for the last fourteen has been living in Switzerland,
the holder of a French passport. Although we are not told I would guess that this is her debut
Her playing is not at all heavy, an approach
that seems just perfect for these scores where evidently
her sound production is so excellent. I was struck by the
broad range of expression and sense spontaneity. The use
of vibrato is refreshingly sparing compared to many other
performers who wish to wring out every single ounce of sickly
sweet emotion. She plays a J. B. Guadagnini cello from 1759,
incorrectly described as a Guadagnino in the annotation.
Orchestra and conductor are perfect partners throughout and
play with assurance and sensitivity.
The opening work, the Variations on a
Rococo Theme was the nearest that Tchaikovsky came
to composing a cello concerto. In this score his fondness
for Baroque music and his admiration of Mozart are both
strong influences. After a short introduction and theme,
seven variations follow, each separated by an orchestral ritornello.
In the Rococo Variations Gabetta provides highly
confident playing, both exquisite and eloquent. I loved
her tender delicacy in the beautiful variation III, andante
sostenuto. By contrast her interpretation of variation
IV, andante grazioso is carefree, with a childlike
This beautiful account of the Rococo
Variations is of an especially high standard and is
one that I will often return to. The most popular versions
of this work are the evergreen and heavyweight accounts
from Rostropovich and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
under Karajan (Deutsche Grammophon 447 413-2) and also
from Lynn Harrell and the Clevelanders under Maazel (Decca
In 1888 Tchaikovsky arranged the second
movement of his String Quartet No.1 into the Andante
cantabile in D minor for cello and string orchestra. This
forms a highly appealing and popular score, rich in Russian
folk-song character, that Gabetta performs with genuine assurance,
resisting the temptation to linger and over-sentimentalise.
Gabetta displays surefooted playing that
is high on vivacity in the Pezzo Capriccioso. In the
short Nocturne she performs tenderly with an intensity
of feeling conveying reflective qualities.
Saint-Saëns wrote several scores for the
cello. The Concerto in A minor is the first and finest of
his two cello concertos, and is rightly regarded as one of
the best loved in the repertoire. The sunny and colourful
score is compact in structure and plays in one continuous
movement with three distinct sections. I enjoyed Gabetta’s
expressive lyricism in what comes across as fresh and immediate,
rich in poetry and emotion. In these expert hands the majestic
opening section allegro non troppo just erupts with
the joyous optimism. The minuet-like central section
marked allegretto con moto is shaped and moulded to
near perfection with love and affection. In the tempo
primo closing section of the score Gabetta confirms
command of her instrument with thrilling playing that gains
in intensity and concludes in high spirits.
by me for the refined musicianship and poetic playing is
the version of the Saint-Saëns from Steven Isserlis with
the LSO under Michael Tilson Thomas from 1992 at Blackheath
(RCA Red Seal 82876 65845 2). I also admire the eloquent
1980 Paris account from Yo-Yo Ma with the Orchestre National
de France under Maazel (Sony Classical SMK 66935).
Alberto Ginastera arranged the Pampeana
No. 2, from his 1950 score for cello and piano. It
is cast in one continuous movement and divided into four
sections: an exciting and enjoyable work of stark and swiftly
changing contrasts. Gabetta’s exhilarating performance
is bold and expressive. I was exceptionally impressed with
the radiant tone that is heard to such great effect at
point 5:40-6:04 (track 16).
The recording has warm and clear sonics. With the closely
caught sound one can hear her playing movements and breathing.
Concise and interesting booklet notes are provided, however,
I would have preferred rather more information.
These are thoroughly enjoyable performances.
I hope this will be the first of many successful recordings
of a wide range of repertoire from this exciting young Argentinian