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Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Sonata for Cello and Piano FP143 (1940/48) [22:31]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Élégie, Op. 24 (1883) [7:10]
Papillon, Op. 77 (1884) [2:52]
Romance, Op. 69 (1894) [3:22]
Sicilienne, Op. 78 (1898) [3:37]
Serenade, Op. 98 (1908) [2:59]
KOMITAS (1869-1935)
Songs (arr. cello and piano) [20:10]
Astrig Siranossian (cello); Théo Fouchenneret (piano)
rec. Studio Ernest Ansermet, Geneva, Switzerland, 21-22 September 2015
CLAVES 50-1604 [63:15]

David Barker already reviewed this debut disc by the French/Armenian cellist Astrig Siranossian and French pianist Théo Fouchenneret, and I am also taken by the performances here. It is indeed good to have such an unusual programme headed by a representative sonata of Poulenc that is not that often recorded. I compared this new account of the Poulenc with that of Jean-Guihen Queyras and Alexandre Tharaud on Harmonia Mundi, as David did, and found Siranossian and Fouchenneret in no way inferior to the other French duo. In fact there is very little to choose between them. Queyras/Tharaud strike me as more exuberant and outgoing with a greater range of color in the cello tone, but Queyras also comes across as too powerful at times. This maybe a result of the recording more than the performance, but next to the earlier pair Siranossian/Fouchenneret seem warmer, more elegant, and lighter. They also adopt slightly slower tempos, but there’s not much in it and both provide plenty of pleasure. I have not heard Anne Gastinel and Claire Désert in this work.

The Fauré pieces make for a nice contrast with Poulenc, and Siranossian/Fouchenneret clearly have the measure of this beguiling music. Their Papillons take wing, while they are appropriately pensive in the Élégie and Sicilienne. I first heard the Sicilienne in an arrangement for flute and harp many years ago and was disappointed when I later learned that that version was not the original. I thought it lost something in its orchestral garb, so I was particularly delighted to hear that Fauré initially scored it for cello and piano. To me the intimacy of this original perfectly captures the spirit of the piece as the flute/harp arrangement also did.

Komitas, whose real name was Soghomon Gevorki Soghomonian, was an Armenian composer unknown to me. Although the cello arrangements of some of his songs may seem rather strange bedfellows for the French works on this disc, one can understand why the performers chose them. They certainly make for an unusual addition in the cello/piano repertoire, and the cellist’s Armenian heritage contributes to the logic of their appearance here. They receive lovely performances with the piano in an accompanying role rather than that of equal partner. I enjoyed listening to them with their Middle Eastern flavour and exoticism, but don’t know how often I’ll return to them. Astrig Siranossian in her notes to the CD compares Komitas as an ethnomusicologist and forerunner of Bartók and Janáček in his collecting a huge amount of folk melodies. That is an interesting point, but I wonder how Komitas’s more substantial compositions compare with those of the Hungarian and Moravian composers. I am aware of his liturgical works, but have not heard enough to make any judgment.

In any case, what matters here are the performances and I have no reservation about recommending them. With their debut CD, Siranossian and Fouchenneret have impressed and I look forward to future recordings from them.

Leslie Wright

Previous review: David Barker



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