WORKS: Cello Sonatas Nos 1 & 2; Prière, Op. 158; The Swan; Romance, Op. 36
PERFORMER: Christian Poltéra (cello), Kathryn Stott (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10552
Why do these sonatas so rarely appear in recitals? Saint-Saëns’s sensuous poeticism and ingenious craftsmanship are wonderfully combined in them. We have his exuberant playfulness in the variation movement of the Second, and his homage to both Baroque counterpoint and classical form in the First.
They may not boast the full-blown rhetorical Romanticism of his cello concertos, but they are beautifully crafted and brimful with enticing detail. Christian Poltéra immediately evokes the melancholy atmosphere which pervades the First in C minor (1872), plunging into a shadowy, fugal world. The second movement with its plangent melodies is well-nigh irresistible.
The Second Sonata, of 1905, is much bigger in scale and more complex. In the grand first movement the cello plays in every one of its 163 bars, and is charged with the exhaustive series of Scherzo variations. One senses a new century’s harmony emerging in the bittersweet Romanza.
The unshowy Poltéra has a lovely sound, exquisite control and naturally expressive phrasing. Despite Poltéra’s elegance, it is the more extrovert Kathryn Stott who brings these performances truly alive. She has a true grasp of the idiom, and the sheer energy and range of sound to illuminate these big works. The disc is completed with a gloriously limpid Swan, and two further salon delicacies. Helen Wallace