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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Sonata in G minor BWV1029 [16:26]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Cello Sonata No. 3 in A, Op. 69 [20:48]
Cello Sonata No. 5 in D, Op. 102 No. 2 [19:29]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 65: Largo [4:01]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Drei Romanzen for clarinet and piano, Op.94, No.2 [4:09]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Ich ruf’ zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 639, arr. M. Gendron [3:36]
Maurice Gendron (cello)
Madeleine Lipatti (piano)
rec. live,  November 1953, Salle Gaveau, Paris

French cellist Maurice Gendron (1920-1990) originated from a poor background in  Nice. He started at the age of three playing the violin, but soon progressed to the cello. At ten he was introduced to Emanuel Feuermann, and at twelve he was admitted to the Nice Conservatory, winning first prize at fourteen. Then it was on to the Paris Conservatoire to study with Gérard Hekking. Whilst there he supported himself by selling newspapers. When war broke out he was declared unfit for active service due to malnourishment, so he became a member of the resistance. During these years he formed a cello-piano duo with Jean Françaix which lasted for 25 years. His international career began in 1945 when he gave the first Western European performance of the Prokofiev Cello Concerto, Op. 58, in London. Alongside concertizing he held several teaching posts at the Paris Conservatoire, the Mozarteum in Salzburg, the Menuhin School in the UK and in Saarbrücken. He also did some conducting, having studied with the Dutch conductor Willem Mengelberg and the West German conductor Hermann Scherchen. He was an assistant conductor with the Bournemouth Sinfonietta in England in the early 1970s. His instrument was an 18th-century Stradivarius which became known as the ‘ex-Gendron’ cello. He commanded an outstanding technique and expressive tone, with an impeccable sense of phrasing.

This live radio broadcast was taped, in the presence of an audience, in November 1953. His partner is Madeline Lipatti (1915-1982), widow of Dinu who had died three years previously in 1950 aged only thirty-three.

The recital opens with Bach’s Sonata in G minor, BWV 1029. The performance isn’t too successful. The opening Vivace is taken at an allegro, far removed from the more animated pace of, say, Argerich and Maisky. In fact it sounds to me world-weary. In the finale, the articulation seems too deliberate and heavy. The central Adagio fares better, eloquently contoured and lovingly phrased.

The two Beethoven Cello Sonatas work very well. The first movement of Op. 102, No. 2 has ample vitality and con brio, whilst the slow movement is ardently etched. The Allegro fugato is tidily and cleanly articulated by both players. In Op. 59 the cello and piano are equal partners, and the interplay between both instruments is markedly successful on account of the player’s shared vision. I particularly like the transition they make between the Adagio cantabile and the Allegro Vivace which seems so natural, unforced and seamless.

The three encores are announced by Gendron. The tender Largo from Chopin's Op.65 Sonata is followed by a glowing account of Schumann’s Romance in A major. Op. 94, No. 2. The recital ends with a captivating performance of a Bach Chorale arranged by Gendron himself. The cello’s radiant melody is sensitively accompanied by delicate semi-quavers.

We are very fortunate that the broadcast has been well-preserved, and it carries its age well. The balance between the two instrumentalists gives me no cause for concern. The audience are well-behaved and offer enthusiastic applause throughout. Forgotten Records don’t provide booklet notes for this release.

Stephen Greenbank

Previous review: Jonathan Woolf

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