The nearly uninterrupted string of strong, successful albums produced by cellist Gautier Capuçon (and indeed his violinist brother, Renaud) demonstrates that the CD debut Face à Face was not just a fluke produced by child prodigies. Rather, Face à Face was a springboard for what has proven to be an enduring career and ever-improving musicianship. On this latest album without his brother, Gautier collaborates with pianist Gabriela Montero on the cello sonatas of Rachmaninov and Prokofiev. Fans of Capuçon's playing will recall that he had previously released a recording of the Rachmaninov sonata with pianist Lilya Zilberstein on the EMI label in 2003. While it may seem questionable to make duplicate recordings when he has recorded so little of the cello repertoire, it offers listeners an opportunity to see how his playing continues to mature even over a short span of five years. While some of the tempos are a little different than the 2003 recording, the most notable difference is that of sound, which has developed impressively with the help of his magnificent 1701 Gofriller cello. His command of sound is most obvious in the solo opening of the Prokofiev sonata.
These very agreeable works will find immediately receptive ears among fans of early-romantic chamber music. And indeed, Georges Onslow was quite adept at writing for various chamber configurations 34 string quintets, 35 quartets, six piano trios, a sextet, septet, and nonet, and sonatas for piano, violin, cello, and numerous solo piano pieces.
A case of deja entendu here, since I reviewed these performances when they originally came out. I enjoyed them then and still do, for both artists offer wit, affection and agility. One can at times think the sheer force and passion of Martha Argerich's personality a bit too obvious, not least in the C major Sonata, where Maisky characteristically sounds smoother and more persuasive.
Nine cello sonatas by Vivaldi have survived. Six of them were published as a set in Paris in about 1740; that set, mistakenly known as the composer's Op. 14, contains the sonatas recorded in this release. The three remaining sonatas come from manuscript collections. All but one of the six works are cast in the slow-fast-slow-fast pattern of movements of the sonata da chiesa. The odd one out, RV46, in fact, retains the four movement sequence but inclines towards the sonata da camera in the use of dance titles. The music of these sonatas is almost consistently interesting, often reaching high points of expressive eloquence, as we find, for example, in the justifiably popular Sonata in E minor, RV40. Christophe Coin brings to life these details in the music with technical assurance and a spirit evidently responsive to its poetic content. Particularly affecting instances of this occur in the third movements of the A minor and the E minor Sonatas where Coin shapes each phrase, lovingly achieving at the same time a beautifully sustained cantabile.
On this recording, Steven Isserlis, together with his regular collaborator, fortepianist Robert Levin, presents a magisterial compendium of Beethoven's complete works for cello and piano, including Beethoven's arrangement of his Horn Sonata. The use of the fortepiano opens up a wealth of sonic possibilities for these works.