Chopin, Franck, Debussy

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Chopin,Debussy,Franck
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 65; Polonaise brillante, Op. 3
PERFORMER: Mischa Maisky (cello); Martha Argerich (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 471 346-2
This live recording marks the Maisky-Argerich duo’s 25th anniversary. Their 1980 debut disc included sonatas by Franck and Debussy (now available on mid-price EMI: CDM 7 63577 2) which, coupled with Chopin’s valedictory Cello Sonata and Polonaise brillante, were played during their first public recital. This, incidentally, fell on what would have been the 75th birthday of Maisky’s mentor, Gregor Piatigorsky, to whose memory this CD is dedicated.

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In the Franck Sonata, overall interpretation has altered little since 1980, and Argerich’s monumental treatment of the piano part (this is her seventh recording of the work) seems as defiantly triumphalist as ever. Debussy counselled that music needs ‘freedom within discipline’, however, so despite its crusading heroism, Maisky’s approach is often too rhythmically indulgent. His daring rubatos don’t always work

out, and the third movement’s recitative-like opening would definitely gain from firmer control.

The Debussy Sonata is beautifully played. Argerich and Maisky conjure up its Janus-like moods effectively (Debussy originally entitled it ‘Pierrot angry at the Moon’), and the pizzicato interjections in the central movement should amaze. But Britten and Rostropovich were more alluringly spontaneous in their classic Aldeburgh performance, and Decca’s 1961 recording never sounds its age.

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Finally, the noble Chopin Sonata is eloquently argued and often perfectly balanced in DG’s live account. Indeed, this performance might have been completely unchallenged were it not for Maisky’s over-emphatic posturing, most distracting in the first movement’s development section. My benchmark allegiance remains with Maria Kliegel and Bernd Glemser’s 1994, steady but reliable Naxos version, closely followed by Pieter Wispelwey’s able 1997 Channel account with Paolo Giacometti. Michael Jameson