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Hyperion Records

Click cover art to view larger version
Landscape at Cagnes by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
Private Collection / Photo © Lefevre Fine Art Ltd, London / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67872
Recording details: October 2010
Concert Hall, Wyastone Estate, Monmouth, United Kingdom
Produced by Rachel Smith
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: January 2012
Total duration: 20 minutes 6 seconds

'Gerhardt and Licad sound as free as air, intellectually confident, full of verve, with niceties of balance and intensities never an issue; a convincing frame of colour, movement and sound in place for every movement, every piece' (Gramophone)

'Visionary performers … one has a powerful sense of Alban Gerhardt's compelling grasp of architecture' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Gerhardt and Licad make a particularly fine duo here, working emotionally in unison, sensing the music's contours with like mind, breathing as one' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Like the works themselves, Gerhardt's playing and that of the pianist Cecile Licad is full of subtleties, the half-tones and inflections that make the chamber music of Fauré's final decade so elusive and fragile' (The Guardian)

'An arrestingly beautiful survey … this repertoire has been explored frequently and by some of the best, but seldom more persuasively than here … from every standpoint, Gerhardt's accounts of the sonatas seem exceptional, with their assured technical mastery and uncanny depth of insight … magnificent cello playing from Gerhardt, empathetically supportive accompaniments from Licad and a wonderfully natural and atmospheric recording to boot … recommended' (International Record Review)

'Both cello sonatas are rolled out effortlessly and with an abundance of colour … other short cello works, the delicious Élégie included, pad out this sizeable, and very satisfying, offering … a super recording' (The Scotsman)

'Alban Gerhardt has arrived at the ideal marriage of Fauré's refinement, essential reticence and the passion that lies just beneath the surface of the two cello sonatas' (Yorkshire Post)

Cello Sonata No 1 in D minor, Op 109
May to August 1917

Allegro deciso  [5'38]
Andante  [7'00]
Allegro commodo  [7'28]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
By 1908 Fauré had already started work on his only opera, Pénélope, and his increasing attraction to longer structures can also be observed in the way individual songs now give way to cycles (La chanson d’Ève, 1906–10; Le jardin clos, 1914; Mirages, 1919; L’horizon chimérique, 1921). The two cello sonatas of 1917 and 1921 conform with this pattern.

Another feature of Fauré’s late works is that for many of them he went back and took themes in unpublished pieces from his earlier life and reworked them. In the D minor Sonata, composed between May and August 1917, the opening theme of the first movement is based on that from the Allegro deciso of the unpublished Symphony in D minor of 1884, now rhythmically tightened and made more forceful. Clearly we are in a different world from the smoothly gliding cello of the Élégie. Fauré’s son Philippe, writing after his father’s death, even touched on his deafness as a possible cause: ‘One has the feeling that the strings sound somewhat lower than he intended, that they grate and run out of energy.’ But Philippe, born in 1889, had grown up with his father’s middle-period works. To the modern ear, energy is precisely what this movement possesses, and in abundance.

The Andante presents a peaceful contrast, alternating between two themes: a dotted, leaping one, on the lines of a sarabande, and a closer, more regular one which, in Robert Orledge’s words, ‘is perhaps the nearest Fauré comes to Ravel’s combination of purity and melancholy’. In one of his few concessions to the colouristic activities of his French contemporaries, he decorates this second theme with bell-like echoes in the piano’s right hand, rather in the manner of his First Nocturne of c1875. The music rises to a central climax, then slowly subsides, the opening G minor now turned to major.

The tempo of the final Allegro commodo is the subject of some dispute. The marking crotchet=80 on the first edition is not confirmed by any autograph source and, by the consent of cellists in general, is impossibly slow. (Tortelier, who had practised the movement at this speed on his own, was won over to a faster tempo by Éric Heidsieck—on the day of their recording!) It could be said that an emphasis on the ‘allegro’ rather than the ‘commodo’ reveals the sunny temper of the movement, even if more care then has to be taken over the clarity of the various canonic passages. It may also help the listener during the many moments of ‘harmonic drift’ so typical of the late Fauré: at a faster tempo, landmarks appear more often. On the other hand, a slower tempo does have its charms. Effectively, the whole movement is one long development section, with the triumphant ending signalled from some way back.

from notes by Roger Nichols © 2012

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