Pierre Fournier, cello = in works of LALO, ST.-SAENS, DVORAK, CHOPIN, RIMSKY-KORSAKOV & GOUNOD – Doron Music

by | Mar 10, 2012 | Classical Reissue Reviews

Pierre Fournier = LALO: Cello Concerto in D Minor; SAINT-SAENS: Cello Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 33; Le Cygne; DVORAK: Humoresque; GOUNOD: Ave Maria; RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Song of India; CHOPIN: Nocturne in E-flat Major – Pierre Fournier, cello/ Orchestre National de l’Opera de Monte Carlo/ Josef Conta/ Orchestre des “Concerts de Paris”/ Jean-Marie Auberson – Doron Music DRC 4017, 64:22 [Distr. by Qualiton] ****:
Pierre Fournier (1906-1986), the “aristocrat of cellists,” brought his perennially suave art to sonorous perfection in Lalo and Saint-Saens staples recorded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1977. The 1880 Lalo Concerto’s opening Allegro maestoso exhibits marvelous drive and dramatic fury, especially as its alternately recitative and galloping, soaring figures find Fournier in colossal form. Conta elicits powerful strokes from his orchestra, and in pungent sound. The Intermezzo divides into two sections, melodious and sentimental, respectively. Fournier’s wistful legato exists on a plane uniquely serene, an objectified serenity that finds spirited accompaniment from the woodwinds in the little Spanish dance that Sarasate likewise found charming. Like the first movement, the Finale: begins with a slow Introduction of Spanish color; here over a strong pedal point. Its cantabile quality appeals to every virtue on Fournier’s palette. Then, the Rondo-Allegro explodes, much in the spirit of the eternal Symphonie Espagnole in the same key. The sheer fluency of motion between Fournier and Conta delivers Iberian sparks and butterflies at once. A mighty hunting song the Lalo becomes, and this performance immortalizes every note in silver enchantment.
The 1872 Saint-Saens Concerto, from its burst of energy, plays as a one-movement virtuoso konzertstueck, originally conceived for August Tolbecque. Fournier negotiates the flowing triplet figures with almost nonchalant grace, always eminently vocal, the woodwinds and scurrying figures weaving a passionate design around him. Saint-Saens, like his idol, Liszt, compresses the traditional movement structure into one seamless fabric, the dainty slow section a kind of antique minuet or gavotte in B-flat Major. Fournier and ensemble soon return to the triplet motif, even faster, the original themes recycled along those lines beholden to Beethoven, Liszt and Franck. Nothing timid about Conta’s thrusts in the final Allegro section, from which a lovely aria arises in the solo, a melancholy song that might have been sung by the composer’s Samson. The orchestral writing thickens, eventually navigating the tissue from A Minor to A Major and a fiendish intricately brilliant coda for itself and the flawless Fournier.
The five “encore” pieces for cello and orchestra (rec. June 1963) have been so arranged by Boris Mersson. The 1894 Dvorak Humoresque in G, [sans cello] benefits from the strings and woodwinds, its bucolic beauty here enshrined in wonderful colors: but where is Fournier’s cello? Gounod uses the Bach C Major Prelude (in the harp) from WTC I on which to superimpose his heavenly vision. The excerpt from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sadko,  its “Song of India” from Act IV, has provided a vehicle for soloists as far back as Elman, Kreisler, and Heifetz. Fournier’s vivid baritone makes its oriental languor infinitely enticing. The harp again supplies transparent accompaniment, here for “The Swan” from Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals, an exquisite cantilena over liquid arpeggios. The Chopin E-flat Major Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 2 concludes this brief excursion into Fournier’s rarified art, a piece violinist Nathan Milstein appropriated for his own purposes. Fournier’s application of grace notes, double stops, and tempo rubato proves a singular lesson in itself.
—Gary Lemco

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