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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Some Superb Cello Playing!

Sergei RACHMANIOV (1873-1943)

Cello Sonata in g minor, Op. 19(1901) [38:31]
Vocalise Op. 34. No. 14 (1912) [6:07]
Variation 18 (Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini) Op. 43 (1934) [3:36]
Transcriptions by Gautier Capuçon and Gabriela Montero
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Cello Sonata in C, Op. 119 (1948) [26:30]

Gautier Capuçon, (cello)
Gabriela Montero (piano)

Recorded 21-23 November 2006 at Auditoria Stelio Molo, Lugano, Svizzera.

VIRGIN CLASSICS 00946 385786 2 [75:09]

Virgin Classics are pairing up two of their hottest young guns in the persons of Gautier Capuçon and Gabriela Montero for this sweeping collection of late romantic and early modern works for cello and piano.

Rachmaninov had just begun to recover from a bout of depression brought on by the failure of his first symphony when he composed both his second piano concerto and this sonata for cello. Eschewing traditional sonata structure, he created a bold work for the piano with a cello part that seldom could be called virtuosic and would more appropriately be deemed orchestral. And yet, the two parts come together to make an impressive whole; a tone poem for solo instruments of sorts.

Mr. Capuçon is one of the finer young artists to come along in recent years, and I have spoken favorably of his work both as a soloist and in chamber music performances in the past. Ms. Montero, who has made a name for herself not only as a virtuoso, but also as a fine improviser, is well paired here providing some fiery playing where called for and fully in command of the work’s demanding requirements. This is a performance of many shades and nuances, bold when needed and subtle at other times with careful attention to balance and to the rise and fall of tension within the music.

The two transcriptions that round out the first half of the recital are pleasant enough additions, but do we really need another snippet from the Paganini variations? Not really in my opinion. Its inclusion seemed more like a tacked on selling point than a real artistic expression.

On to the Prokofiev. This, strangely enough is perhaps a more melodic work than the Rachmaninov. I have always found Prokofiev to be a master of a good tune, even if that tune is a bit disjunctive at times. Written for Rostropovich, it is work full of ideas, overflowing with ear catching and beautifully constructed counterpoint. Our artists give us a fine performance here, again, exquisitely balanced and cleanly and articulately delivered.

These young artists appear fully equipped to become the legends of their generation, and it is most encouraging to see EMI putting forth an ambitious amount of new releases with these rising stars. Kudos to all concerned and a here’s a strong recommendation for some very fine performances indeed.

Kevin Sutton

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