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Rhapsody - Rachmaninov, Prokofiev: Cello Sonatas

Release Date: 02/05/2008 
Label:  Erato   Catalog #: 85786   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Sergei RachmaninovSergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Gabriela MonteroGautier Capuçon
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

RACHMANINOFF Cello Sonata. Vocalise (Arr. Capuçon, Montero). Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini: Variation No. 18 (Arr. Capuçon, Montero). PROKOFIEV Cello Sonata Gautier Capuçon (vc); Gabriela Montero (pn) VIRGIN 85786 (75:09)

This has to be one of the fieriest and most exuberantly emotional readings of the Read more Rachmaninoff Cello Concerto that I have ever heard. The two artists give no quarter to the composer’s already hyper-expressive melodic content—in fact, they take this aspect of the piece and run with it, never letting up, and never toning it down in any way. I was thrilled from first to last, and while this piece was never a particular display vehicle for overtly sophisticated prestidigitation (at least in the cello), it does require an almost superhuman degree of elegance, control, and unwavering sense of boundaries—it is too easy simply to play this work over the top with no idea of perspective. Both these players know that innately, and the results are perhaps the most gratifying I have heard in a long time. I might note that Gautier Capuçon has recorded this work to good effect before, on an album from the Lugano Festival (EMI) that Robert McColley enjoyed ( Fanfare 27:2), complaining only of the fairly close-up sound. That issue is resolved on this disc, as the sound is all one could wish. Isserlis and Hough created a splendid Hyperion album (covered elsewhere) that is excellent in every way, yet perhaps not as passionate as this one. Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax seem strangely distant to me now, though Truls Mørk remains splendid on Virgin. I reviewed a fine reading by Kniazev and Lugansky on Warner (30:6) that I called “an impassioned, sweeping reading that is stunning in its clarity and emotion.” This still holds, though I think Kniazev and Lugansky are more in the clarity department, giving us a more classically controlled emotional trip through the Russian landscape than this white-hot release under review. By the way, this duo honors the rarely taken first-movement repeat, as they do in their Lugano recording.

The Prokofiev, a far different sort of piece, is given the same smoking treatment and fares equally well. For the composer 1948 was a tough year, as he lost both his dear wife and his friend Sergei Eisenstein. He was accused of the silly “formalism” spouted by the state flunkies, and even after humiliating and debasing criticism, he was still condemned. In 1949, and for the then young cellist Rostropovich, he found his second wind and returned to his true self, with this intimate, truly personal sonata. I am not sure how closely guarded Gautier Capuçon and Gabriela Montero keep this work; it seems to me a much broader and more public display than perhaps the composer intended, but such is the nature of mature and substantial musical reflection we call interpretation. The fact is that they sell this work and sell it hard. It makes a nice foil for the Rachmaninoff, even though the cloth is woven from the same spindle.

The Vocalise and the variation from the Paganini Variations are for one thing only, and that is to show off the magnificent tonal opulence of the cellist. They do.

FANFARE: Steven E. Ritter
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor, Op. 19 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Gabriela Montero (Piano), Gautier Capuçon (Cello)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901; Russia 
Songs (14), Op. 34: no 14, Vocalise by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Gabriela Montero (Piano), Gautier Capuçon (Cello)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1912-1915; Russia 
Notes: Arrangers: Gautier Capuçon; Gabriela Montero.
Composition written: Russia (1912 - 1915). 
Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini, Op. 43: Variation 18 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Gabriela Montero (Piano), Gautier Capuçon (Cello)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1934; USA 
Notes: Arrangers: Gautier Capuçon; Gabriela Montero. 
Sonata for Cello and Piano in C major, Op. 119 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Gautier Capuçon (Cello), Gabriela Montero (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949; USSR 

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