Works and transcriptions by Brahms, Chopin, Coltrane, Dutilleux, Falla, Fauré, Haydn, Kreisler, Popper, Poulenc, Saint-Saëns, Shchedrin, Tchaikovsky, Vecsey and Zimmermann
Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello), Alexandre Tharaud (piano); with Raphaël Imbert (saxophone); La Diane française
Harmonia Mundi HMM 902274 65:03 mins
In a bid, perhaps, to subvert the old saying ‘Always the bridesmaid, never the bride’, cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and pianist Alexandre Tharaud – the ‘complices’ of the title – present a recording made up entirely of encores or works commonly used as such, bravura demonstrations of virtuosic skill given centre-stage and idiosyncratic life by the French recital duo.
The music ranges from Haydn to Kreisler, Coltrane to Zimmermann, much of it, if not already transcribed for cello and piano, then actively done so by Queyras and Tharaud, who clearly enjoy the process as well as the freedom of interpretation and presentation that the encore gives. But there is a niggling feeling here of something missing, and it’s not just the concert beforehand. Despite the enthusiasm and virtuosity, it’s all a bit tenuous, the links between the pieces sometimes stylistic, sometimes mood-based, sometimes based on a complete reversal of type, but without anything quite solid or consistent enough to constitute a thread to anchor all this three-and-a-half-minute showstoppering.
And yet there is much that is inventive amongst all the enthusiastic ornamentation, from Tharaud’s deliberately sculpted waltz-time in Kreisler’s Liebeslied to Queyras’s distinctive cello sound producing much beauty, some emphatic Popper and exaggerated Shchedrin. Somewhat inexplicably, though, and symptomatic perhaps of the inchoate nature of the whole, the last two pieces dispense with Tharaud, leaving Queyras to forge an improvisational duet with Raphaël Imbert on tenor sax and a palette-cleaning Adagio from Haydn’s Symphony No. 13 with ensemble La Diane française.
Sarah Urwin Jones