Massenet, Fauré, Saint-Saens & Franck
Though ‘Ma and Stott’ may not be the most euphoniously-named duo, their previous collaboration, Soul of the Tango, won a Grammy and its successor bears further witness to an unusually fine partnership. There is little to be gained here from nit-picking about the quality of the music-making, the musical decisions and the minutiae of comparative versions. Sit back and wallow. You will have to go a long way to hear the cello played with such tonal allure and technical brilliance – there are numerous hazards with which Ma challenges himself in his own transcriptions of Fauré’s First Violin Sonata and Saint-Saëns’s Havanaise (his dexterity and intonation in extreme high positions are amazing). Stott is very much his equal – sensitive, characterful, incisive and providing a deal more detail than is customarily heard in recordings of the two sonatas by Fauré and Saint-Säens, helped (perhaps a little too keenly at times) by the recorded balance. My only quibble is why, when there is so much first-class unfamiliar French cello music out there waiting to be explored, does one of the world’s greatest cellists make a disc of violin works?