Saint-Saëns: Cello Sonatas Nos 1 & 2; Cello Suite, Op. 16

COMPOSERS: Saint-Sa‘ns
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Saint-Sa‘ns
WORKS: Cello Sonatas Nos 1 & 2; Cello Suite, Op. 16
PERFORMER: Maria Kliegel (cello), François-Joël Thiollier (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.55788
Maria Kliegel plays a Stradivarius cello that once belonged to Maurice Gendron; François-Joël Thiollier studied with Robert Casadesus. Breeding of this quality would tempt any punter to have a fling and on this occasion the favourite comes home. Not a romp exactly, but by several heads.

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For Hyperion (CDA 67095) Mats Lidstrom does an honest, intelligent job, but I miss any higher flights of fancy (yes, they do exist in Saint-Saëns). Reviewing the first release of his version, BBC Music Magazine found the tone of his C string rather woolly, with which I concur, and in passages of more strenuous bowing, especially in the first movement of the Second Sonata, the scratch/tone ratio is high. Kliegel’s tone throughout is a joy – clean but expressive, and her articulation precise but poetic. Thiollier is more willing than Lidstrom’s pianist, Bengt Forsberg, to foreswear the sustaining pedal, and his lighter texture often pays off,as in the finale of the First Sonata, where the composer’s initial non legato marking should surely be observed as far as the appassionato second subject. And at this point I do find the Hyperion reading rather unimpassioned. But au fond I come back to the flights of fancy. Saint-Saëns admitted that listeners might be lulled to sleep by the first two movements of the Second Sonata, and the long first one certainly needs help in clarifying its structure. The art is to do this without become over-interventionist or mannered. Kliegel and Thiollier succeed splendidly in this, and in capturing the variety of moods and textures in the early Suite.Roger Nichols