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Debussy / Poulenc (Debussy: Cello Sonata No.1/Valse/Scherzo/Intermezzo - Poulenc: Cello Sonata/Bagatelle in D minor/Serenade/Suite francais) Jean-Guihen Queyras / Alexandre Tharaud

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...In the Debussy sonata, cello and piano are unified in their spontaneity and finesse, identifying the Baroque courtliness that underpins the sighing lyricism of the opening Prologue, adapting with quick wit to the gentle clowning of the Sérénade and responding open-heartedly to the joie de vivre of the finale. But it is not as clear-cut as that, because one of the great pleasures of this performance is the way that Queyras and Tharaud can use their spectrum of tonal colour and their intimate affinity with the music to switch mood in a split second. The element of surprise is winningly deployed.

In their interpretation of the Poulenc sonata, the music's typical harmonic side-shifts and broad lyricism vie with the equally characteristic laconic phrases and cheekiness to conjure up an evocative atmosphere. This is perhaps most evident in the contrasts between the introspective Cavatine second movement and the tea-room tunefulness of the third, but the whole piece is vivified by the duo's imagination. --Geoffrey Norris, Classical CD of the Week, Daily Telegraph, September 27 2008

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable Recital of French Delicacies 18 Jun. 2009
By John Hopfensperger - Published on
Verified Purchase
Of these two masterful artists, Mr. Tharaud may be the more famous. (His recent disk of Chopin preludes, an award winner, has gained more attention than this present disk -- which is a pity, given the quality of artistry on display here.) He has recorded the Poulenc before (on the Naxos label), but he is here paired with a finer cellist. I've long adored Mr. Queyras' lithe tone and supple bowing, immensely enjoying his Bach suites in particular. But this is his first recording that I can recommend, without hyperbole, as definitive.

So lovingly do the two artists blend their burnished (and, when called for, exotic) sonorities in the Debussy sonata, they sound at times as a single instrument. Their unanimity of attack--of rhythm and style--is truly remarkable given their tremendous range of tempos and dynamics. And, while they approach the work rather freely, the artists never sound self-conscious in the least.

Poulenc's cello sonata is one of his better works. While not quite as wondrous as the Debussy, the performers treat it like a masterpiece, and the results are stunning. No matter what the music calls for--even with the cello pizzing softly against sustained piano chords--every note can be heard clearly, balanced to perfection.

Some of the composers' finest miniatures are interspersed throughout the recital -- including Poulenc's own transcription of his Suite française. The piano's thundering low notes in the Bagatelle in D minor are appropriately gruff, while "La plus que lente" has never sounded sexier. The acoustic is intimate, warm and detailed; the perfect match for these perfect performances.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tres francais 28 Nov. 2013
By Michael Gunther - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I first encountered Queyras/Tharaud only a month or so ago, as I was noodling around on You Tube. It was pure serendipity - I was immediately captivated by the duo's musicality and rapport.

This 2008 Harmonia Mundi recording includes two sonatas for cello and piano by Debussy (1915) and Poulenc (1948), plus Poulenc's Suite francaise (1935). Suite francaise is a Stravinsky-esque homage to French dance forms that goes all the way back to the 16th century. By contrast, his cello sonata is ultra modernist - this is the Poulenc of Tiresias, not the Gloria - but amazingly, Queyras and Tharaud present the Debussy cello sonata as equally hypermodern! You might think this would be crazy, but wait till you hear it played that way. This is not your daddy's Debussy. It might be that the Q/T Debussy doesn't quite compare to Maisky/Argerich on DG, but in terms of sheer power I think it deserves to be heard, along with the other music on this fine disk.
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