Cello Concerto; Adagio und Allegro; Stücke im Volkston; Fantasiestücke, Opp. 73 & 88
Renaud Capuçon (violin), Gautier Capuçon (cello), Martha Argerich (piano); Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Bernard Haitink
Warner Classics 9029563421 78:19 mins
Schumann’s Cello Concerto is the most interpretatively challenging of the great works in that genre. Play it as a Romantic emotional powerhouse in the manner of the Dvořák and one tends to lose sight of its deeply introspective emotional trajectory; yet chamber-scale discretion can lead to a disruptive sense of imbalance when set against Schumann’s trenchant orchestral writing. Gautier Capuçon (recorded live in the Concertgebouw) provides the best of both worlds, creating a profound sense of a lone figure lost in his thoughts (think of Casper David Friedrich) during the first two movements, before suggesting an emotional rejuvenation in the finale, while remaining sensitive to the music’s unsettling major-minor-key exchanges.
Bernard Haitink and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe follow him every inch of the way, creating mere whispers of sound on occasion, yet ensuring the more forthright tuttis are kept perfectly in scale. Such a strong sense of emotional and sonic continuity results in a powerfully convincing expressive structure, yet (most notably in the finale) I did wonder whether Schumann’s rare glimpses of sunlit elation might have been accorded a more unguardedly joyous response. Providing the perfect counterweight are the four Schumann chamber works Gautier recorded live with his violinist brother Renaud and Martha Argerich in Lugano between 2009 and 2012. Just occasionally, as in the dreamy opening Adagio of Op. 70, I wondered whether the music might be allowed to flow more naturally, yet turn to the Op. 88 Fantasiestücke and it is difficult to imagine this glorious work played more sensitively.