A Mon Ami: Cello and piano works by Chopin and Franchomme

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COMPOSERS: Chopin; Franchomme
LABELS: Odradek
ALBUM TITLE: A Mon Ami
WORKS: Cello and piano works by Chopin and Franchomme
PERFORMER: Beatriz Blanco (cello), Federico Bosco (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Odradek ODRCD 327

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Is this period authenticity or pure historical whimsy? Here we have Chopin’s Cello Sonata with the pianist playing an 1898 ‘double piano’, a curious invention by Pleyel, only six of which survive in playable condition today. It’s essentially two pianos housed within one case, which, says cellist Beatriz Blanco, gives a ‘full rich sound – an ideal choice for this repertoire’. It’s a fun idea. And Chopin loved Pleyel pianos. But why not include music for two pianists so we could get the full effect? Soft-edged and resonant, the double piano makes a mellow partner to Blanco’s dusky cello tone but I’m not sure its thick sound, closely recorded, does anything to help the cello sing through Chopin’s already dense textures. If it’s historic pianos that you want, try Ophélie Gaillard and Edna Stern (Aparté) or Pieter Wispelwey and Paolo Giacometti (Onyx Classics).

A mon ami, as you’ve probably already guessed, is also a portrait of a friendship. Auguste Franchomme was a distinguished French cellist, friend and inspiration to Chopin, and composer of appealing, though hardly profound cello works. Here we have his easy-listening Three Themes with Variations on Donizetti, Beethoven and Bellini, and his sparkling Grand duo from a motive of Anna Bolena; so more Franchomme than on Sol Gabetta’s similarly-themed album (Sony), but a long way off Louise Dubin’s The Franchomme Project (Delos). Fine performances, but it all feels rather flimsy after the Sonata. Still, they round off the disc with Chopin’s Introduction and Polonesa Brillante in C played with elegance and style. 

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Rebecca Franks