Debussy: Cello Sonata; Beau soir; Préludes, Book 1, No. 12 – Minstrels; La plus que lente; Poulenc: Cello Sonata; Ravel: Violin Sonata No. 2; Vocalise-étude en forme de habanera; Satie: Six Gnossiennes – Nos 1-3
Maciej Kułakowski (cello), Jonathan Ware (piano)
Delphian DCD34277 72:31 mins
Arthur Honegger was unusual among composers in adding the sparest indications to his scores, saying ‘performers are intelligent people, they can see for themselves what’s needed’. Most composers though are less trusting, and indeed it would be natural to believe that performers might be grateful for more detailed instructions through words and signs. Alas, flouting such instructions for some interpreters seems to be a default position, testimony to their perceived rights as individuals. But this disc proves that doing what it says on the tin can reap invaluable rewards.
As Caroline Potter’s helpful notes make clear, the arrangement of 20th-century French music for other instruments was widely practised, often by composers themselves, so for most of the music recorded here to consist of arrangements is perfectly in order, allowing for an especially wide range of moods and styles. Obeying their instructions to the letter means that cellist and pianist convey the meaning of every crescendo or change of tempo, however minimal, proving that tiny details can have huge effects. To use a technical term, the ‘wackiness’ of Debussy, Ravel and Poulenc has rarely been better demonstrated, from Claude’s jokey minstrels to Maurice’s pseudo-jazz and Francis’s surrealist juggling between lyricism and vulgarity.
It has to be said that the acoustics are not ideal – if ‘cavernous’ is too damning, one could possibly accept ‘spacious’ – in that occasionally the piano overrides the cello when they operate in the same register. But of the intelligence and artistry on display there is no doubt.