ALBUM TITLE: Schubert , Schumann
WORKS: Arpeggione Sonata; Adagio & Allegro, Op. 70; Fünf Stücke im Volkston, Op. 102; Fantasiestücke,Op. 73; Märchenbilder, Op. 113
PERFORMER: Antonio Meneses (cello), Gérard Wyss (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: AV 2112
Benchmarks aside, I should first declare that this recording boasts some of the most beautiful cello playing I have heard in years. Brazilian Antonio Meneses, currently a member of the Beaux Arts Trio, is an aristocrat of the instrument. His sound has the translucent radiance of liquid amber. Double-stopped chords fall with bell-like purity, his legato is seamless, his bow seemingly endless. While he makes a strong case for metal-wound strings, it’s not fashionable to play like this: we are used to the more articulated, wiry, frenetic talents of such cellists as Pieter Wispelwey and Steven Isserlis, hand-held cameramen against the slow-moving sweep of Meneses’s vision. While Isserlis electrifies Schumann with a mercurial intensity, Meneses lends the music an almost mystic stillness. Inevitably, this approach works better in some movements than others: his Adagio has an Olympian calm, but the Allegro lacks a headlong rush of joy. The limpid poise of his Fantasiestücke is impressive, but, again a sense of forward impetus and a glint of mischief are lacking from the faster Stücke in Volkston: the Langsam,
however, is exquisite and the final ‘Stark und Markiert’ really roars, Gérard Wyss here a lively and articulate partner.
The highlight for me is their brilliant account of Märchenbilder, Schumann’s ‘fairy tale pictures’ for viola: this is by far the best recorded account of that work on cello and, dare I say it, enlarges and enriches it beyond the viola’s capabilities. The dotted rhythms of the Lebhaft are so tight it fizzes, the final Langsam holds the listener spellbound.
Spellbinding, too, is this reading of Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata: the
slow movement has gleaming surface, the fast passage work a violin-like finesse. For a more supple and detailed reading I would turn to Jean-Gihen Queyras, but this will surely bring pleasure to all who hear it. Helen Wallace