Sonata No.1 in D minor for Cello and Piano, Op.109
Sonata No.2 in G minor for Cello and Piano, Op.117
Nocturne in B minor, Op.119
Trio in D minor for Piano, Violin and Cello, Op.120
Kathryn Stott (piano), Priya Mitchell (violin) & Christian Poltéra (cello)
Recorded 17-19 May 2007 in Potton Hall, Suffolk, UK
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: February 2008
CD No: CHANDOS
Duration: 65 minutes
This survey of “Late Chamber Works with Piano” by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) reveals the composer’s astonishing creativity in the face of financial problems and ill-health, manifested in a rare condition that made listening to music extremely painful. Despite this, his ‘final’ style (here covering 1917 to 1923) finds an unexpected serenity, and all three musicians on this recording breath life into the long, flowing phrases characterising Fauré’s melodic invention.
Kathryn Stott is long familiar with the piano works, having recorded them all for Hyperion in 1994, and she provides the ideal foil for Christian Poltéra in the cello sonatas. These are very much ‘duo’ pieces, rather than solo and accompaniment – the intimate dialogue between the two instruments is lucidly conveyed here with the help of a clear recording.
The First Sonata begins in edgy mood, yet carries an increasingly greater conviction as the opening Allegro progresses. Poltéra’s legato bowing aids the fluidity of the slow movement, delicate but becoming wiry in tone as the intensity grows. The finale’s restless search for peace is perhaps underplayed, though Poltéra uses a beautiful feathery tone at its outset.
The Second Sonata is more settled musically, and in this performance drifts in almost imperceptibly with a chromatic theme. Both artists are once again receptive to the broad melodic writing and the last movement’s more assertive and upward-looking stance. The emotional centre is the beautiful central Andante; Stott’s lightly-pulsing piano is more obviously in accompaniment this time, like a reflection by the older composer on one of his early successes, the Élégie. Stately on its return, the theme is beautifully phrased by Poltéra.
Fauré’s final Nocturne (for piano) offers a darker, more troubled side to the composer’s late music, and Stott’s experience with the piece shows in her perfectly attuned structural grasp, while the nagging left-hand motif that appears throughout the piece is ideally weighted.
The Piano Trio returns to a world of serenity, and is given an immaculate performance. The Andantino becomes a graceful dance, set up beautifully for the dramatic violin and cello music with which the finale begins. This too reveals a dance influence under Priya Mitchell’s forceful tones. Whilst a clean performance this is never short of expression, and the balance between the three instrumentalists helps to bring through the dialogue of ideas.
These four pieces form a well-cast survey capturing Fauré’s resolve in his final years, the players fully inside the fluent melodic writing and concise structures to find the heart of this wonderful music.