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Anne Gastinel (cello)
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Cello Concerto in A minor, Op.129 (1850) [23:04]
Fantasiestücke, Op.73 (1849) [10:44]
Five pieces in folk-style, Op.102 (1849) [16:04]
Adagio and Allegro in A flat major (1849) [9:38]
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Violin Sonata in A major (1886) transcribed for cello by Jules Delsart (1888) [28:15]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Cello Sonata in D minor (1915) [11:11]
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Cello Sonata (1940-48) [21:56]
Claire Désert (piano)
Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège/Louis Langrée
rec. July 2001, Philharmonic Hall, Liege (Concerto) and May 2001, Theatre des Quatre Saisons, Gradignan, France (Schumann chamber music) April 2011, MC2, Grenoble (Franck, Debussy & Poulenc)
NAÏVE NC40041 [59:26 + 61:20]

Naïve has released some re-packaged catalogue of late, and this includes quite a few twofers in slipcases, of which this is an example. The Schumann album was issued on V4897, the sonata disc on V5259, and both discs fit comfortably into their slipcase, in their original unchanged forms. Thus if you have the 2001 Schumann album or the much more recent 2011 sonata disc you will find them here again, the only difference being the slipcase with its new catalogue number.
 
The target market is therefore, invariably, admirers of cellist Anne Gastinel. Her Schumann disc shows her fine instincts in this repertoire. The Concerto performance is marked by precision and elegance, a refinement that never courts mannerism. Perhaps, as a result, she emphasises the work’s sheer lyricism over its more dramatic elements, and thus some may find the result a touch unbalanced, but if you are looking for well-calibrated tone and poetic introspection you will find them here, along with a good rapport with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège, directed by the perceptive Louis Langrée. For the solo works she is joined by pianist Claire Désert. The qualities of intimacy and refinement she found in the concerto are equally to be found in the Fantasiestücke, originally written for clarinet, though they have always worked well in the cello arrangement. Some fine ensemble playing is to be heard, with sensibilities well attuned to Schumann’s poetic reverie. Similarly they are sensitive exponents of the Five pieces in folk-style, Op.102, though equally they’re alive to the more capricious interludes of the first and the warmth of the slow second of the five pieces. There’s a composer-sanctioned cello version of the Adagio and Allegro for horn and once again there’s a lovely sense of lyricism, underpinned by firm structural imperatives. An excellent disc.
 
So too is the sonata CD, once again with Claire Désert. To start with the most recent of the three works, the Poulenc receives a most persuasive reading. It’s acutely judged architecturally and warmly textured throughout. They take a quite forward-moving tempo in the slow movement, noticeably quicker than that taken by Pierre Fournier and Jacques Février in their classic recording, and in some ways even more intense. The spectral moments of the finale are, however, accomplished with remarkable immediacy by Fournier. I like the middle-of-the-road approach to the Debussy. That doesn’t imply timidity or indeed interpretative neutrality. In fact the Gastinel-Désert duo sensibly ignore the more outlandish gestures foisted on this work over the last two decades. It offers a good sounding perspective. Finally there is the Franck transcription, an increasingly popular choice on disc. One can note with admiration Gastinel’s supple bowing and her judicious approach to vibrato usage - and, indeed, its relaxation. Désert has in many ways the harder role as pianist and plays with skill throughout.
 
I hope this is not just a Gastinel-only acquisition. It’s a well played and perceptively interpreted slice of repertoire, both concerto and chamber. It is, in fact, for all those who appreciate these qualities.
 
Jonathan Woolf