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French Cello Works / Julian Steckel, Paul Rivinius

Steckel / Rivinius / Poulenc / Faure / Saint-saens
Release Date: 10/11/2011 
Label:  Cavi Music   Catalog #: 8553230   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Francis PoulencGabriel FauréClaude DebussyNadia Boulanger,   ... 
Performer:  Julian SteckelPaul Rivinius
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



FRENCH CELLO SONATAS Julian Steckel (vc); Paul Rivinius (pn) AVI-MUSIC 8553230 (71:46)


POULENC, DEBUSSY, SAINT-SAËNS Cello Sonatas. FAURÉ Papillon. Sicilienne. Après un Rêve. N. BOULANGER 3 Pièces.


This ambitious CD introduces me to two fairly young musicians; on the cover, they look almost Read more like college frat boys. (Hint: Steckel is the one who looks like a young German filmmaker, Rivinius the one who looks like a Star Trek geek.) Here they tackle French repertoire that has been traversed by many over the decades. Among the many versions of the Poulenc Sonata, for instance, are famous ones by Fournier, Nelsova, and Isserlis; the Debussy was also recorded by Fournier, as well as by Rostropovich with Britten (Decca 894602) and even Wieland Kuijken (Arcana 303); the Saint-Saëns was featured in a live concert by Natalia Gutman with Sviatslav Richter (Live Classics 641) and no fewer than three recommended recordings, by Mischa Maisky (DG 457599), Christian Poltera (Chandos 10552), and Henri Demarquette (Mirare 108, reviewed by Jonathan Woolf, Fanfare 34:5), so Steckel and Rivinius are up against some pretty good competitors.


Being young, they have tried to take a fresh perspective to these works without sacrificing proper style—always a dangerous, if exciting, route—and, by and large, they have succeeded. Actually, the very best performance I’ve ever heard of the Debussy sonata’s Prologue was a live broadcast on St. Paul Sunday by cellist Zuill Bailey and pianist Awadagin Pratt. Steckel and Rivinius are a bit more forceful in the opening bars of the Prologue than Bailey and Pratt, but they fall into the spirit of the piece very quickly. Overall, it is a deeper-felt performance than the one by the Nash Ensemble on Virgin 91148, which is the one I happen to own.


When I was offered this CD to review and told there were pieces by Boulanger on it, I quite naturally assumed they were written by Lili. Surprise! Sister Nadia wrote them in the years just before she went into teaching full-time. To my ears, Nadia was more influenced by Debussy than was Lili (whose music is really quite original, but closer in spirit to Stravinsky and Scriabin), but they are fine vignettes just the same. Steckel really makes Fauré’s Après un rêve sing, the way it should … bravo! And just listen to the way they dig into the Saint-Saëns Sonata No. 1. Without having heard Poltera or Demarquette, I can justly say that it’s a splendid interpretation in its own right, the kind I would characterize as “smoldering intensity.”


Since I started the CD with the Debussy, I went back after the Saint-Saëns and restarted with the Poulenc. It actually makes a nice follow-up to the Saint-Saëns. Egbert Hiller’s liner notes indicate that Poulenc wrote this sonata under the spell of what he called “acute Debussy-itis,” but it’s obvious from listening to it that he was influenced by the later, more structural, less Impressionistic Debussy. Its dedicatee was Fournier, famous for his pointed, burnished cello tone, but Steckel’s somewhat darker sound is adapted quite well to the music’s changing moods.


Steckel’s cello tone alternates, chameleon-like, between bright yet orange-colored in fast passages and in the upper register, while his lower range has a burnished mahogany color. Among several teachers, Steckel lists Ulrich Voss as his longest, but also stints with Gustav Rivinius (from what I can tell, the older brother of pianist Paul), Boris Pergamenschikow, and Heinrich Schiff. The discography on his website lists six other CDs, including an unusual one of the music of August Klughardt (1847–1902) alongside the more standard fare of Mozart, Branks, Beethoven, Schubert, and Mendelssohn. I have most definitely added Steckel to my short list of favorite living cellists, alongside Bailey, Isserlis, and Colin Carr, and will most definitely be on the lookout for any new releases by him.


FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

1. Sonata for Cello and Piano by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Julian Steckel (Cello), Paul Rivinius (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1948; France 
Date of Recording: 02/2011 
Venue:  Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal, Köln 
Length: 22 Minutes 2 Secs. 
2. Papillon for Cello and Piano in A major, Op. 77 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Julian Steckel (Cello), Paul Rivinius (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1884; France 
Date of Recording: 02/2011 
Venue:  Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal, Köln 
Length: 2 Minutes 57 Secs. 
3. Sonata for Cello and Piano by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Julian Steckel (Cello), Paul Rivinius (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1915; France 
Date of Recording: 02/2011 
Venue:  Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal, Köln 
Length: 11 Minutes 36 Secs. 
4. Sicilienne for Cello and Piano, Op. 78 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Paul Rivinius (Piano), Julian Steckel (Cello)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1898; France 
Date of Recording: 02/2011 
Venue:  Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal, Köln 
Length: 3 Minutes 47 Secs. 
5. Pieces (3) for Cello and Piano by Nadia Boulanger
Performer:  Paul Rivinius (Piano), Julian Steckel (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1915; France 
Date of Recording: 02/2011 
Venue:  Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal, Köln 
Length: 6 Minutes 28 Secs. 
6. Aprčs un ręve, Op. 7 no 1 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Paul Rivinius (Piano), Julian Steckel (Cello)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877; France 
Date of Recording: 02/2011 
Venue:  Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal, Köln 
Length: 3 Minutes 25 Secs. 
7. Sonata for Cello and Piano no 1 in C minor, Op. 32 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Julian Steckel (Cello), Paul Rivinius (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1872; France 
Date of Recording: 02/2011 
Venue:  Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal, Köln 
Length: 20 Minutes 40 Secs. 

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