Gautier Capuçon & Gabriela Montero at Wigmore Hall – Beethoven, Schumann & Grieg

Variations on ‘Bei Männern welche Liebe fühlen’ from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, WoO46
Fantasiestücke, Op.73
Sonata in A minor for Cello and Piano, Op.36

Gautier Capuçon (cello) & Gabriela Montero (piano)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 12 November, 2012
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Gautier Capuçon and Gabriela Montero began their BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert at Wigmore Hall with a different set of Beethoven variations on Die Zauberflöte to that advertised, opting for ‘Bei Männern welche Liebe fühlen’ rather than ‘Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen’ (Opus 66). This was a spirited performance, though Montero often had a tendency to hit the notes hard, playing over and above Capuçon’s cello. Beethoven stipulates that the piano should be treated as the cello’s equal at the very least, but here the cello struggled to be heard. There were though some nice touches in the minor-key fourth Variation, which exploited the sonorous low register of Capuçon’s 1701 Matteo Goffriller instrument, though the slow sixth Variation was laid on rather thick.

Schumann’s versatile Opus 73 Fantasiestücke, originally written for clarinet and piano but transcribing naturally for cello and piano, fared much better where balance was concerned, and there was a refreshing positivity to the sweeping melody of the first piece, and the passionate surge of the third. In between there was a nicely flowing, lightly played second movement that delighted in the exchange of chromatic writing between instruments.

Grieg’s A minor Cello Sonata is a big-boned work, demanding much of the pianist. Montero again tended to power through fortissimo passages with less sensitivity than Capuçon, though the cellist this time had no problems projecting. At times the fast music was overpowering, figuratively pinning the listener against the hall, and there was an attritional approach to the start of the first movement that took a while to give way to deeply felt-emotion. Once things had settled there was no lack of passion and intensity, and the players enjoyed Grieg’s playful nature with the deceptively simple theme of the finale. Most successful of the three movements was the Andante, the duo taking opportunity for expressive rubato, and Capuçon’s singing tone was particularly beautiful. And so when the tempestuous music of the finale arrived, it carried a much greater impact.

For an encore Capuçon and Montero offered their arrangement of Variation XVIII from Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, played with affection.

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