Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Drei Fantasiestücke, Op. 73 (1849) [10:19]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Cello Sonata No.1 in E minor, Op.38 (1865) [26:15]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918) Cello Sonata in D minor [11:29]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906–1975) Cello Sonata Op.40 (1934) [27:05]
Sol Gabetta (cello), Hélène Grimaud (piano)
rec. June 2012, Alfried Krupp Saal, Philharmonie, Essen, Germany
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 479 0090 [75:10]
On this release titled Duo the publicity people at Deutsche Grammophon have clearly concentrated on the photogenic qualities of Sol Gabetta and Hélène Grimaud. The accompanying booklet is packed with the duo’s images. Also included is a rather overblown interview with the two soloists talking mainly about how they met and their relationship; nothing is said about the four works. However it’s the music that matters and Gabetta and Grimaud certainly rise eminently to the challenge with a near telepathic capacity for communication. Stylish and perceptive, these colourfully expressive performances are memorable and beautifully rendered. The sound is clear and well balanced. The whole listening experience was gratifying from start to finish.
Schumann composed his Drei Fantasiestücke designing the clarinet part so that it could be performed on the violin or the cello as it is here. They were written quickly and were originally called ‘Night Pieces’. The first short Zart und mit Ausdruck is wistful and dreamy and the second Lebhaft, leicht is restless with the players bringing out a slight sense of anxiety in the writing. The ardent and direct Rasch und mit Feuer is robustly played.
More than twenty years separate Brahms’ two cello sonatas. The first was composed between the years 1862-65. A sombre yearning and sense of isolation imbues the opening movement. The central Allegretto quasi Menuetto is lyrical and melodic. The fugal Finale - Allegro is played with ardency bordering on the aggressive.
The first of a projected cycle of six sonatas for different instruments Debussy’s Cello Sonata is a short work lasting just over eleven minutes. It opens with a Prologue: marked Lent, sostenuto e molto risoluto. Its intense yearning suggests a sense of grieving for a loved one. The restless central Sérénade: Modérément animé is full of eccentric rhythms. The rather idiosyncratic Final: Animé, léger et nerveux is performed with forceful high-spirits.
A relatively early work Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata, Op.40 is a product of a period of emotional turmoil. The long lyrical opening Allegro non troppo is reflective and regretful. The very short, highly rhythmic and thrusting Allegro never seems to stop moving forward. It has a somewhat quirky, melodic quality and is technically demanding for the cellist. The impassioned and broodingly melancholic Largo speaks of total despair and could easily represent a land laid to waste. A mischievous if somewhat cutting Finale, Allegro is exhilaratingly done with infectious enthusiasm.
Michael Cookson
Admirably played and recorded the whole listening experience was gratifying from start to finish.

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