Mon ami, mon amour
L Boulanger: Two Pieces (arr. Haimovitz); N Boulanger: Trois pièces; Debussy: Cello Sonata; Poulenc: Cello Sonata; plus works by Fauré, Milhaud and Ravel
Matt Haimovitz (cello), Mari Kodama (piano)
Pentatone PTC 5186 816 62:05 mins
In his excellent liner note, Matt Haimovitz singles out structure and joie de vivre as two salient characteristics of French music, and his playing fully endorses this judgment. His tone (on his beloved cello now happily restored after a serious accident) embraces both the light-hearted and the solemn without ever becoming scratchy or dull, and he is sensitively supported by his accompanist. His two transcriptions are both entirely successful: Ravel’s song ‘Kaddish’, at a slow speed beyond the ability of most singers, is deeply moving, aided by his transposition of the central section down an octave, while that of two violin pieces by Lili Boulanger catches the soulfulness of the first and the playfulness of the second – his invented sul ponticello being a particularly apt touch. It’s very good, too, to have three pieces by her sister Nadia who, after Lili’s early death, wrote only half a dozen songs in 1922, devoting herself from then on to promoting Lili’s works and to her own teaching: the third piece exhibits a jazzy Nadia unknown in later years.
I have only a few quibbles. In the second movement of the Poulenc Sonata, the tempo at fig. 4 is considerably above what is marked, and at fig. 9 in the third movement there is a curious and unwelcome burst of speed. In the central movement of the Debussy Sonata, the structure is built on the games between staccato and legato, not always in place here. But overall this is an impressive and enjoyable disc.