On Saturday night, Sol Gabetta and Bertrand Chamayou played a recital in Alice Tully Hall. She is a famous cellist, born in Argentina. He is a less famous pianist, born in France. Their bios did not give their nationalities—you can find this information elsewhere.
I have complained about bios before, notably in this post from 2015. In the music business, bios aren’t really bios. They are lists of conductors, orchestras, accolades—boring and useless. And people’s lives are so interesting!
Gabetta and Chamayou began their recital with a Beethoven sonata, that in F major, Op. 5, No. 1. They continued with Britten’s Cello Sonata. The composer, a pianist, made a famous recording of this work with Mstislav Rostropovich.
Your correspondent was unable to attend the first half of the recital, I’m sorry to say. I arrived at intermission—in time for the Chopin Cello Sonata.
If his reputation rested on this piece, we would not know his name. It is terribly inferior Chopin. Why do cellists, and pianists, play it? For two reasons, I think. First, because it is by Chopin, composer of so many great pieces. Second, because—how many cello sonatas are there (though the list is expanding)? The sonata’s Scherzo has some tang, but otherwise the piece is a series of Romantic gestures. I think of the word “filler.” Romantic filler.
But enough of my iconoclasm. How did our duo play? Very, very well. Gabetta is reliably tasteful, intelligent, and musical. She makes a beautiful sound, or a handsome sound, with some graininess. She seems incapable of doing anything violative of taste. And she did some fine singing on that instrument of hers.
Moreover, she is winning, endearing—which is one of those intangibles, priceless.
Bertrand Chamayou was a worthy partner. He too did some fine singing, and he showed an admirable sense of line. He had a grasp on the structure of the music. And his playing was full, unafraid, while not overwhelming of the cello. It occurred to me that I would like to hear him in a program of Chopin proper (if I may put it that way).
After the sonata came more Chopin, sort of. What I mean is, the duo gave us the Grand Duo on themes from Meyerbeer’s opera Robert le diable, cooked up by Chopin and his cellist friend Auguste Franchomme, who was also a composer. This piece is a happy novelty. From Gabetta and Chamayou, it was elegant, spirited, and virtuosic.
This was appropriate in that they were playing in a series called “Virtuoso Recitals.”
The audience clearly wanted an encore, and the duo sat back down for some Spanish music: a song from the Seven Spanish Folksongs of Manuel de Falla. I can’t help thinking of Victoria de los Ángeles (soprano) and Alicia de Larrocha (piano) in these songs. On Saturday night, Gabetta played the role of de los Ángeles—though the cello is baritonal—and Chamayou played the role of de Larrocha.
They played “Nana,” which is a lullaby. About the pianist, I have a complaint: his accompaniment was far too blunt, not raindroppy enough (to use a technical term).
The duo sat down for one more encore, the seventh in de Falla’s set of songs, “Polo.” It had due fire and flair. The audience cheered and cheered, for what was surely—though I heard only half of it—a civilized and excellent evening.