Paul LADMIRAULT (1877-1944)
Cello Sonata (1939) [17:51] ¹
Louis de Caix D’HERVELOIS (1680-1760)
Suite for viola da gamba and harpsichord (or cello and piano) arranged by Alexandre Béon [12:12] ¹
Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764)
Les Fêtes d’Hébé: Cortège d’Eglé transcription by Maurice Maréchal [7:54] ¹
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Werther – Clair de lune [4:37]
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)
Les Contes d’Hoffmann – Barcarolle [2:43]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Liebestraume No.3 [4:09]
Song of the Volga Boatmen [3:05]
Benjamin GODARD (1849-1895)
Jocelyn – Berceuse [4:22]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
The Carnival of the Animals – The Swan [3:03]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Etude Op.10 No.3 [3:02]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Peer Gynt – Solveig’s Song [4:15]
Maurice Maréchal (cello); Cécile Ousset (piano) ¹
André Lévy (cello); André Collard (piano)
rec. 1958 (Lévy and Collard) and 1959 (Maréchal and Ousset), Paris
This is a most astute coupling. The 1959 Maurice Maréchal recordings with the young Cécile Ousset were the last commercial undertakings made by the great cellist. He had retired from active concert performance to devote himself to teaching. The LP is worth a small fortune on the second-hand market, and its appearance here is thus extremely valuable. It’s coupled with the 1958 recordings made by Maréchal’s almost exact contemporary, the less celebrated André Lévy, and the pianist André Collard. Thus we have an all French cello disc that covers a pleasing range of repertoire.
Maréchal and Ousset perform Paul Ladmirault’s 1938 Sonata, a very rare bird on disc. The composer, born in Nantes in 1877, was a pupil of Fauré, for whom he occasionally orchestrated. Fellow pupils at the Paris Conservatoire included Ravel, Florent Schmitt and Georges Enesco, and Debussy praised his ‘fine, dreamy musicality’ which took the form of a zealous advancement of Breton heritage. His Sonata wears its Breton traditional musical lineage strongly, most especially in the finale. Elsewhere it is draped in Fauré’s inheritance – ultra-lyrical, with a lovely and unaffected slow movement, a Breton chanson of great warmth.
Maréchal also plays his own transcription of Rameau’s Les Fêtes d’Hébé: Cortège d’Eglé with some delicious portamenti and great reserves of romantic style. But it would be idle to pretend that his technique has emerged intact, and by now his intonation was often ‘creative’ all too often. The same applies to Alexandre Béon’s arrangement of d’Hervelois’s Suite. Again the playing is nobly conceived and imperfectly executed. By now Maréchal’s trill was pretty much non-existent but that deep woody tone was still there. Incidentally I assume the LP track listing had it wrong but beware tracks 8 and 9, which are reversed. La Napolitane should be track 8 and the Plainte track 9. Maréchal’s 78 recording of this last was one of the wonders of recorded cello history and this LP remake hardly compares. But to me, for whom Maréchal is a favourite musician, it remains deeply moving, imperfections notwithstanding.
Lévy meanwhile had less personality than Maréchal but his technique was better honed. He was still a concert-giving musician, unlike Maréchal who had retired, which would account for it. He plays an old-fashioned recital of chestnuts, such as were fireside favourites for the carpet-slippered generations of yore. Volga Boatmen carouse with Swans, Solveig sings, and the transcriptive arts are at their warmest. This unassuming selection is played with studied elegance and reticence. Lévy was a dignified exponent not given to slushy or unnecessary emoting. That includes the Swan, which is played with sincerity and directness.
There is a biographical booklet note about Lévy but nothing otherwise. The transfers are excellent. Admirers of the French school of cello playing will welcome these two examples of musicians captured toward the end of their careers.
Jonathan Woolf
Two examples French school of cello playing captured toward the end of the musicians’ careers.