Emmanuelle Bertrand plays Dutileux and Debussy cello works

'Every note is not only in place but invested with profound feeling'

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Henri Dutilleux; Claude Debussy
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Debussy • Dutilleux
WORKS: Dutilleux: Tout un monde lointain; Trois strophes sur le nom de Sacher; Debussy: Cello Sonata
PERFORMER: Emmanuelle Bertrand (cello), Pascal Amoyel (piano); Lucerne Symphony Orchestra/James Gaffigan
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 902209

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I can’t do better than quote the testimony of Henri Dutilleux himself, praising ‘the transparency of Emmanuelle Bertrand’s sound, her rhythmic strictness, her technical perfection, the brio of her playing’. All of these qualities are displayed in abundance on this disc, every note not only in place but invested with profound feeling – sometimes passionate, sometimes melancholic, sometimes witty, never anodyne. One of her most impressive moments comes in the revised ending of the concerto, where the cello sound vanishes slowly but steadily, inexorably into nothingness, leaving a question mark hanging in the air. James Gaffigan lends prompt and vivid support throughout.

In the Trois strophes Bertrand responds fully to their darker tones and rougher surfaces – Dutilleux was prompted in this direction by one of his students who, irritated by the sweetness of that inescapable Swan, had written a harsh piece entitled Anticello. Whoever thought of including the Debussy Sonata on the disc clearly understands what Dutilleux is about. Writing in 1915, Debussy appears to have seen into the distant future with his sudden changes of perspective, brief but deeply moving interjections of lyricism and, not least, flashes of humour, all to be found in Dutilleux’s music. A strong candidate for my Disc of 2015.

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Roger Nichols