French Cello Sonatas

COMPOSERS: Poulenc • Debussy • Saint-Saëns • Fauré • Boulanger
LABELS: Avi-music
ALBUM TITLE: French Cello Sonatas
WORKS: Cello Sonatas; Papillon; Sicilienne; Après un rêve; Trois pieces
PERFORMER: Julian Steckel (cello), Paul Rivinius (piano)


With the sound of Anne Gastinel and Claire Désert’s exquisite readings of the Debussy and Poulenc Cello Sonatas (Naïve) still ringing in my ears, I began this disc with some trepidation. Julian Steckel and Paul Rivinius do not disappoint: in fact, the freshness and energy they bring make up for their occasional brashness and weightier approach. Their Poulenc has an impressive freedom and sensuality, particularly in the plangent chordal introduction to the Finale, here played with an organ-like richness of resonance.

In Debussy’s masterfully spare Sonata, Steckel proves himself brilliantly in control of touch and timbre: he risks the barest touch, a mere breath of sound in the Serenade, while his pizzicato is pungent and lyrical arabesques intensely focused. Rivinius matches him in sensitivity and range of colour, though the piano is recorded with perhaps a little too much resonance. Saint-Saëns’s C minor Sonata, Op. 32, is a terrific tour de force, on fire with dramatic imagination.

Yet, the unique selling point here is Trois pièces by Nadia Boulanger. Each is a memorable gem: the first a melancholy reminiscence, the second a touching mélodie, the last an exuberant dance. Inspired.


Helen Wallace