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Friday, October 26, 2018

Claude Debussy; Francis Poulenc - Cello Sonatas (Jean-Guihen Queyras; Alexandre Tharaud)


Composer: Claude Debussy; Francis Poulenc
  • (01) Debussy - Sonata No. 1 for Cello and Piano in D minor
  • (04) Debussy - Valse "La plus que lente"
  • (05) Poulenc - Sonata for Cello and Piano
  • (09) Poulenc - Bagatelle in D minor
  • (10) Poulenc - Sérénade
  • (11) Poulenc - Suite francaise
  • (18) Debussy - Scherzo
  • (19) Debussy - Intermezzo

Jean-Guihen Queyras, cello
Alexandre Tharaud, piano

Date: 2008
Label: Harmonia Mundi!/albums/1308




Here is yet another superlative recording that some collectors may inadvertently pass over–even chamber music enthusiasts. After all, cello sonatas aren’t everyday fare, and these two are not usually considered to be major works. But they are. Poulenc’s sonata is his biggest and most important solo sonata. Debussy’s says in 10 minutes what would take another composer more than an hour.

Among the shorter works, Poulenc himself made this arrangement of the Suite française, and it’s delightful. The three Debussy pieces are actually surprisingly substantial and not as well known (“La plus que lente” aside) as they might be. The arrangement of pieces on the disc offers delicious points of contrast and an entirely harmonious program that you can listen to at a sitting and still come away wanting more.

The performances are wholly remarkable. Alexandre Tharaud was the guiding force behind Naxos’ excellent series of the complete Poulenc chamber music, and in Jean-Guihen Queyras he has an even better cellist than previously. Interpretively, this newcomer is fractionally more lively and a touch more rhythmically incisive than its otherwise very fine predecessor. The Debussy sonata, its central Sérénade in particular, is little short of amazing. It combines spontaneity and flexibility of tempo with supernaturally accurate ensemble in a way that’s absolutely jaw-dropping. Toss in perfectly warm, ideally balanced engineering, with none of the grunting and groaning that sometimes disfigures HM’s chamber music recordings, and the result is a disc that belongs in every collection, plain and simple. [10/29/2008]

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

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Claude Debussy (22 August 1862 – 25 March 1918) was a French composer. Along with Maurice Ravel, he was one of the most prominent figures associated with Impressionist music, though he disliked the term when applied to his compositions. Debussy is widely regarded as one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. His innovative harmonies and his use of non-traditional scales were influential to almost every major composer of the 20th century and also some modern music groups. Debussy's music is noted for its sensory content and frequent usage of nontraditional tonalities.


Francis Poulenc (7 January 1899 – 30 January 1963) was a French composer and pianist. A member of group Les Six, Poulenc had a reputation, particularly in his native country, as a humorous, lightweight composer, and his religious music was often overlooked. During the 21st century more attention has been given to his serious works. Among his best-known compositions are Trois mouvements perpétuels (piano suite, 1919), Les biches (ballet, 1923), Concert champêtre (1928), Organ Concerto (1938), Dialogues des Carmélites (opera, 1957), and Gloria (for soprano, choir and orchestra, 1959).


Jean-Guihen Queyras (born 11 March 1967 in Montreal, Canada) is a French cellist. His recordings for Harmonia Mundi have won distinctions such as Top CD - BBC Music Magazine, Diapason d'Or, Gramophone Editor's Choice, etc. Queyras is also a member of the Arcanto Quartet (with Antje Weithaas, Daniel Sepec and Tabea Zimmermann) and frequently collaborates with Alexander Melnikov and Isabelle Faust. He plays a cello made in 1696 by Gioffredo Cappa. He is a professor at the Musikhochschule Freiburg and artistic co-director of the Rencontres Musicales de Haute-Provence.

Alexandre Tharaud (born 9 December 1968 in Paris) is a French pianist. Tharaud entered the Conservatoire de Paris at the age of 14 where he won first prize for piano in the class of Germaine Mounier when he was 17 years old. With Theodor Paraskivesco, he mastered the piano, and he sought and received advice from Claude Helffer, Leon Fleisher and Nikita Magaloff. After winning several prizes at international competitions, his career developed quickly in Europe as well as in North America and Japan. Tharaud is active on the concert stage and has released a large and diverse discography.


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