Debussy, Poulenc, Franck & Ravel

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Debussy,Franck & Ravel,Poulenc
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Daniel Máller-Schott
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: Daniel Müller-Schott (cello); Robert Kulek (piano)
I first heard Daniel Müller-Schott in the early Nineties when he struck me as a powerful and serious player, no more. From this disc it is clear he has something to say, with the technique and character to tackle these highly elusive French masterpieces. And what a collection it is, from the bitter high-jinks of Debussy’s late Sonata to the long-lined rapture of the Franck Sonata. Perhaps the most difficult of these to bring off is Poulenc’s – a big, virtuosic work, that tends to trip itself up every time there’s a danger of taking itself too seriously. He achieves the Poulencian switches from eloquence to jest with aplomb – the ‘Cavatine’ is simply beautiful, the ‘Ballabile’ charming and the last movement has grandeur and gaiety without a hint of strain (this was a movement that tested even the Olympian Fournier). Most enjoyable, too, was the Franck: the piece should feel like one endlessly long phrase in the right hands, and here it does. There is always a temptation to make a meal of the rhetorical building passages, but Müller-Schott and Kulek keep up a marvellous momentum without skating over the mysterious eddies. I defy anyone not to be exhilarated by this performance. Only the Debussy felt too literal: the masterful Kulek doesn’t quite seem to get under its skin and Müller-Schott clearly lacks the suavity of Maurice Gendron, whose 1964 Philips recording balances passion and devil-may-care despair. Müller-Schott plays the little tune in the finale with precision where Gendron’s or Tortelier’s turn somersaults. Gendron’s tone, too, is of a luminous, focused quality rarely heard today, though this young cellist has a wonderfully clean sound, and an impressive legato (listen to Ravel’s ‘Habanera’ for an example of exquisite bowing). Altogether, a delectable programme from an exciting cellist – another winner for EMI’s Debut series.