Saint-Saëns: Cello Concerto No 1 in A minor, Op 33; Cello Sonatas – No 2 in F major, Op 123; No 3 in D major, Op posth

Reviewed on Fri 03 Feb, 2017

Emmanuelle Bertrand releases the Concerto’s seemingly unstoppable flow of melody with winning warmth of tone and a facilitating technique. Her soft playing is especially lovely.

Hearing this admirable CD made me wish that rather than being a single disc it had been a double-pack featuring both cello concertos and all three sonatas (the First Sonata is a real gem). Still, the First Concerto as played here is seductively smooth, so much so in fact that you can hardly tell the difference between up- and down-bow strokes. James Gaffigan and the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra provide an alert accompaniment, well recorded, with especially vivid timpani. Emmanuelle Bertrand releases the Concerto’s seemingly unstoppable flow of melody with winning warmth of tone and a facilitating technique. Her soft playing is especially lovely. Both the Second and the Third Cello Sonatas are late works, the former fairly complex in design, the second movement a highly original ‘scherzo with variations’ full of mischievous tricks and unexpected changes in metre, the third movement ‘Romanza’ dreamily evocative, the banks of the river where The Swan drifts regally perhaps. It was Pierre Destombes’ superb playing of this appealing work that inspired Saint-Saëns to compose a Third Sonata, a more delicate piece that alas he never lived to complete. This is its first recording and as with the other two works programmed receives a most winning performance, pianist Pascal Amoyel fully Bertrand’s equal in both musical and technical terms.
–Rob Cowan