Collection: Portes Ouvertes

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Debussy & Britten,Dutilleux,Reger,Webern
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Works by Reger, Webern, Dutilleux, Debussy & Britten
PERFORMER: Matt Haimovitz (cello)Philippe Cassard (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 457 584-2

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In these cash-strapped times, you have to be quite some cellist to secure the long-term support of a major label. So DG’s choice of the young Israeli cellist Matt Haimovitz has sometimes seemed curious.

I had reservations about the first and second of his ‘20th-Century Cello’ series: he simply wasn’t up to the fiendish Kodály Solo Sonata at that time. But in this third volume, the company’s faith is rewarded. There are still some technical problems: in the last of Dutilleux’s 3 Strophes his co-ordination cannot match his chosen speed. His Debussy, while beautiful, is mannered and slow, and from the opening arpeggio we feel that he will not let fly its fantastical spirit.

Yet there is much to enjoy in this programme, not least its recording quality: chording in Reger’s grand Bachian Solo Suite has terrific edge and resonance, every pizzicato rings and the balance between the instruments in the Britten and Webern could not be bettered. And for Dutilleux’s 3 Strophes sur le nom de Sacher alone, this is worth hearing. These austerely dramatic pieces have terrific scope and vitality. The sometimes heavy sincerity of Haimovitz’s playing is tempered with an engaging impetuosity here, and he draws out the long structural lines that underlie Dutilleux’s detailed tone-painting most effectively.

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He also brings that expansive quality to Britten’s Sonata, revealing it as the weighty neo-classical work that it is, rather than the drawing-room miniature for which it is sometimes mistaken. Britten’s writing for cello is some of his darkest and grittiest, and behind the elegant opening dialogue lurks an aggressive, sometimes painful argument. And in Philippe Cassard Haimovitz has a poet of the piano: his playing is ethereal, unpredictable and translucent – a perfect foil to this cellist. Helen Wallace