Chopin; Franchomme

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Chopin; Franchomme
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Chopin: Cello Sonata; Polonaise brillante in C; Grand Duo Concertant; Etude, Op. 25 No. 7 (arr. Glazunov); Nocturne, Op. 15 No. 1; Franchomme: Nocturne, Op. 14 No. 1
PERFORMER: Sol Gabetta (cello), Bertrand Chamayou (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 88843093012

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This release seeks to draw parallels between the long-standing musical friendships of pianist Bertrand Chamayou and Sol Gabetta, and the fruitful partnership of Chopin and Auguste-Joseph Franchomme that inspired the composition of the great Cello Sonata and the somewhat less interesting Grand Duo Concertant. Certainly on the evidence of these performances, Gabetta and Chamayou are a highly effective and musically unified team, investing Chopin’s long lyrical lines with a wonderfully fluid yet instinctive approach to rubato. The first movement of the Sonata is particularly impressive. All too often, performers get tied up with expressive inner detail and fail to see the bigger picture; but Gabetta and Chamayou have the measure of Chopin’s expansive structure, building up a real head of steam in the increasingly urgent dialogue of the development section.

The rest of the Sonata is perhaps not quite so compelling. I would have welcomed more light and shade in the Scherzo and Finale, and wonder whether Gabetta is just a bit too indulgent in shaping the Trio and in the halting melodic lines of the Largo. In contrast, Chamayou displays a brilliantly florid finger technique in the Polonaise and the flashy bits of the Grand Duo which both artists dispatch with great bravura.

It’s a pity that in an album celebrating musical friendship, space could only be found for one of Franchomme’s original compositions, a charming Nocturne elegantly performed by this duo. I’m also not totally happy with the recording made in the Siemensvilla Berlin, which gives a rather cloudy aural perspective to the piano.

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Erik Levi