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Guy Fallot (cello)
The Napoleon of the Cello
rec. 1955-2008
CASCAVELLE VEL1599 [8 CDs: 488:58]

This recently released 8 CD set is dedicated to the memory of French cellist Guy Fallot (1927-2018). He was born in Nancy of parents who were amateur musicians. He started piano lessons with his mother, a close friend of Guy Ropartz, hence the name Guy chosen for her son. At the age of only nine he was admitted to the Lausanne Conservatoire and by then he'd switched to the cello. He must have made rapid progress as he took the virtuosity prize aged fourteen. A year later, he won the first prize at the Geneva Sonata Competition with his pianist sister, Monique. He then went on to study at the Paris Conservatoire with Paul Bazelaire, clinching first prize in his class. Aside from an international career, interrupted for a while due to a hand problem, he taught at the Geneva and Lausanne conservatoires. Recording-wise there's a dearth of material available by the artist, so this fascinating collection is most welcome.

CD 1 features performances from 1997 in collaboration with the pianist Rita Possa, who was Fallot's regular accompanist for many years. The music chosen is of a dark, sombre and reflective character. The Bach Adagio conveys much pain and sadness, as does the cellist’s only solo contribution, the Sarabande from the Fifth Cello Suite in C minor. Messiaen's Louange à l'Éternité de Jésus (Quatuor pour la fin du temps) is reverential, yet powerful, and the introspection of the Largo from Chopin's Cello Sonata is truly captured. The disc ends with two rarities. The first is from the Massenet pupil André Bloch (1873-1960). His Suite palestinienne for cello and orchestra (1948) is subtitled "Les Dernières Paroles du Christ en croix". There's some colourful impressionistic scoring in the second movement and much anguish in the third, where the cries of pain from the cello are gently emphasized by the sparse orchestration. There's a broadcast performance of this work dated 17 January 1949 and performed by Fallot's teacher Paul Bazelaire with the composer at the piano (St Laurent Studio YSL T-820), which would probably explain the cellist's interest in the work. The other rarity comes from the pen of French composer Louis de Caix d'Hervelois (c.1670-1759). The 5-movement Suite no. 2 opens with nobility of gesture, followed by several genteel dances. The orchestra in these two works is the Chamber Orchestra of Lausanne, directed by Arpad Gerecz, and the performances date from 26 January 1968.

Unfortunately, there are only three concerto performances: Haydn’s Concerto No. 2, the Dvořák and the Brahms Double. Haydn’s Second Concerto has been overtaken in popularity by the First, which was only discovered in 1961. The D major concerto Hob.VIIb/2 can be problematic. Many performances I’ve heard meander and lack direction. This one, set down in Montreal (date unknown) under the direction of Kurt Redel, keeps the structure tight and focussed, with no sense of routine, sounding fresh and spontaneous. The Dvořák Concerto is partnered by the Suisse Romande Orchestra and Ernest Ansermet in an airing from 1955. Despite the age of the recording, the soloist is favourably spotlighted. Fallot’s instinctive shaping of lyrical lines is a positive asset. With the same orchestra, this time conducted by Pierre Colombo, Fallot teams up with Turkish violinist Ayla Erduran for a compelling reading of the Brahms Double Concerto. The opening movement is energized and forceful, with the slow movement expressively tender. The finale is rhythmically charged. It’s a performance where there’s a true meeting of minds between the two protagonists.

The two Brahms Cello Sonatas were recorded in Lausanne with pianist Rita Possa. These are deeply satisfying and well-thought-out accounts. Sonically, a perfect balance has been struck between the two players. This is ravishing playing and the two sonatas are a high selling point of the set. It doesn't get much better than this. The cellist's sister Monique Fallot accompanies her brother in a 1961 account of Arthur Honneger's Cello Sonata (1920). The sound is rather congested, with a lack of spatial perspective between the two instruments. From the same concert is a performance of Kodaly's Solo Cello Sonata. Strangely, it sounds much better and offers a more pleasing listening experience, with air and space around the instrument. The other pianist featured is Emmanuelle Lamasse who partners the cellist on CDs 4 and 5. These collaborations took place in the early 1970s and the recordings have previously been issued of the VDE-Gallo label. The Rachmaninoff Sonata, Op. 19 is imbued with passion and turbulence. The performance of Martinu's First Cello Sonata fully articulates the often manic nature of the work, especially in the finale's frenzied cross-currents. The arrangement of Franck's Violin Sonata for Cello seems to work very well indeed. Gallot eloquently shapes the work’s long melodic lines with poetic imagination.

Chamber music is represented by two Schubert works. The earliest is a performance from 1993 of Schubert's Piano Trio No. 2 in E flat, in which Fallot is joined by Gyula Stuller (violin) and Paul Coker (piano). In contrast to the earlier Piano Trio, Op. 99, where a carefree spirit pervades, Op. 100 is more dramatically etched. The performance fully gets to grips with the constant mood changes and vividly points up the moments of darkness. The String Quintet was taped ten years later in 2003. Fallot's collaborators are the Quatuor Athéna. It's a fine reading with a clear vision and imposing sense of structure. The players explore the work’s full emotional range. The sublime slow movement is radiant and other-worldly, and I love the gypsy swagger of the finale.

The final disc contains an almost thirty minute interview in French that the cellist gave to Henri Jaton in February 1972.

There's so much of interest here and a good deal to praise. This well-transferred set has excellent accompanying notes, which I highly recommend. For the uninitiated to Fallot’s artistry, hopefully the collection will constitute a welcome introduction. To those who are admirers it will help deepen their respect for this intense cellist and great musician, who earned the sobriquet ‘Napoleon of the cello’.

Stephen Greenbank

CD 1 [56:14]
Johann Sebastian BACH : Toccata, Adagio & Fugue in C Major, BWV 564 : II. Intermezzo (Adagio) – Olivier MESSIAEN : Quatuor pour la fin du temps : V. Louange à l’Eternité de Jésus – Johann Sebastian BACH : Cello Suite No. 5 in C Minor, BWV 1011 : IV. Sarabande – Gabriel FAURÉ : Cello Sonata No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 117 : II. Andante – Frédéric CHOPIN : Sonata for Cello & Piano in G Minor, Op. 65 : III. Largo – André BLOCH : Suite palestinienne pour violoncelle et orchestre, Les dernières paroles du Christ en croix – Louis CAIX D’ERVELOIS : Suite No. 2 in D Major for Cello & Orchestra.
Guy Fallot, violoncelle – Rita Possa, piano – Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, Arpad Gerrecz, direction.

CD 2 [53:38]
Zoltán KODÁLY : Sonata for Cello Solo, Op. 8 – Arthur HONEGGER : Cello Sonata in D Minor, H. 32 – Claude DEBUSSY : Cello Sonata in D Minor, L. 135.
Guy Fallot, violoncelle – (4-6) Monique Fallot, piano – (7-9) Vlado Perlemuter, piano.

CD 3 [77:35]
Présentation du concert de Haydn – Joseph HAYDN : Cello Concerto No. 2 in D Major, Hob. VIIb:2 – Franz SCHUBERT : String Quintet in C Major, D. 956.
Guy Fallot, violoncelle – (1-3) Orchestre de Montréal, Kurt Redel, direction – (4-8) Quatuor Athéna (Julie Lafontaine, Rebecca Aeschbach, Elcim Ozdemir, Pascal Michel).

CD 4 [50:44]
Sergei RACHMANINOFF : Cello Sonata in G Minor, Op. 19 – Bohuslav MARTINU : Cello Sonata No. 1, H. 277.
Guy Fallot, violoncelle – Emmanuelle Lamasse, piano.

CD 5 [51:00]
César FRANCK : Violin Sonata in A Major, FWV 8 (Arr. For Cello and Piano) – Gabriel FAURÉ : Elégie in C Minor, Op. 24 – Manuel DE FALLA : Suite populaire espagnole – Paul BAZELAIRE : Berceuse chinoise, Op. 115.
Guy Fallot, violoncelle – Emmanuelle Lamasse, piano – (5) Rita Possa, piano.

CD 6 [71:40]
Antonin DVORAK : Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104, B. 191 – Johannes BRAHMS : Double Concerto for Violin & Cello in A Minor, Op. 102.
Guy Fallot, violoncelle – Orchestre de La Suisse Romande, Ernest Ansermet – (4-6) Ayla Erduran, violon – OSR, Pierre Colombo, direction.

CD 7 [55:58]
Johannes BRAHMS : Cello Sonata No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 38 – Cello Sonata No. 2 in F Major, Op. 99.
Guy Fallot, violoncelle – Rita Possa, piano.

CD 8 [72:09]
Franz SCHUBERT : Piano Trio No. 2 in E-Flat Major, Op. 100. D. 929 – Interview de Guy Fallot par Henri Jaton (RSR 19.02.1972)
Guy Fallot, violoncelle – Gyula Stuller, violon – Paul Coker, piano.

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