7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 14 January 2012
Album covers can be misleading. The Renoir landscape on the front of Hyperion's new Fauré Cello Sonatas disc should be the perfect fit. But its whirlpool of Côte d'Azur oils ignores the steelier tones of much of this music. Rather than languishing in an impressionistic haze, cellist Alban Gerhardt and pianist Cecile Licad are thrillingly direct in their performances. If only Fauré was up to such scrutiny.
The two cello sonatas, written just after the Great War, are pugnacious scores. Gerhardt and Licad launch into both with decidedly un-Gallic ferocity. This is music that claims to speak of its time, rather than a hazy remembrance of things past. But interest wanes during the endless cat and mouse games of the outer movements. Fauré is at home in the central elegies - it's not for nothing that the Requiem and the Pavane are his greatest legacies.
Even within the more reflective occasional pieces (all written before the War), Gerhardt and Licad remain wonderfully plainspoken. The Op. 24 Élégie may initially lack tenderness, but their performance hides a more bruised character. Papillon is a spirited piece of whimsy. If its tempo was pushed too far, the Sicilienne is a gloriously louche response. Collectively, these postcards offer a more three-dimensional listening experience.
And it's those pieces, of course, that readily subscribe to the Renoir idyll. Although Fauré piles on lush cadences at the end of the G minor sonata, he cannot bury the downright ordinary material at its core. Gerhardt and Licad deliver all these goods with palpable tension and technique, but the sonatas are sometimes over-exposed and consequently leave you longing for more Renoir.