SCHUMANN: Cello Concerto in A minor; Adagio and Allegro; Fantasiestuecke; Five Pieces in Folk-Style – Gautier Capucon, cello/ Martha Argerich, piano/ Rene Capucon Violin/ Chamber Orchestra of Europe/ Bernard Haitink – Erato 0190295634216, 78:19  (1/25/19) [Distr. by Warner Classics] ****:

In his liner note to this pleasing all-Schumann album, Gautier Capucon (b. 1981) relates that the etiology for this program occurred over the course of several years, including chamber music concerts in Lugano with Martha Argerich and the 2014 collaboration in the 1850 Cello Concerto with Bernard Haitink.  The present performance dates from 12-13 November 2015 and enjoys both the warmly plastic phrasing and glossy sonority from Capucon—who plays a Goffriller c. 1700 instrument—and the estimable clarity that has defined the Haitink style for six decades. Auditors will relish, particularly, the marvelous sense of spacious harmony and repose Capucon and Haitink achieve in the blissful Langsam (Adagio) of this melancholy, through-composed work of Schumann’s final surge of creativity.  Capucon likens the last movement to a badinerie (a la Bach), and the application of his deft, light touch in tandem with Haitink’s brisk tempo effects a pungent wit and resonant elan in the musical moment.

Violinist brother Rene Capucon (b. 1976) and pianist Martha Argerich join (Lugano, June 2009) Gautier for a performance of the Schumann Fantasy Pieces, Op. 88 (1842), whose debts seem to lie with the piano trios of Joseph Haydn—as well as his discovery of the Op. 49 D minor Trio of Mendelssohn—and whose demands appear to suit those of gifted amateurs.  The brief Romanze enjoys a folksy tune of touching simplicity.  It returns in animated, martial form in the succeeding Humoreske, set as a kind of rondo. Just as the movement approaches its end Schumann adds a coda that allows the march to fade away. Argerich invests her own dynamism into this middle movement for an irresistible moment of exuberant Schumann. The third movement, Duett, spins the two stringed instruments in luxuriant, melodic harmony while Argerich accompanies in pearly ripples. Schumann employs a rich, chordal style—almost a bagpipe drone—to launch his Finale in March-Tempo. Schumann likes to introduce a series of brief canons in minor and major to proceed, with the natural, buoyant rhythm’s carrying the music along in brisk energy. For a few moments, Schumann seems lost in his own droning harmony, but the coda restores our faith that the ailing master had reserves in his creative arsenal.

Having recently reviewed cellist Sol Gabetta in the remaining chamber works of opera 70, 73, and 102, I have little to add in terms of chronology, and Capucon’s playing with Argerich proves every bit as worthy of any of the great instrumentalists in these works. The opening of the June 2010 Adagio and Allegro (which may well be realized on the French horn) from Lugano effects a marvelous repose before Capucon literally explodes into the Allegro, a fiery rondo rewarding in its virtuosic touches for both participants. The Five Pieces in Folk-Style (1849) testify to Schumann’s rich nationalistic spirit, although the first piece takes its cue from Ecclesiastes, “Vanitas vanitatum,” to be played Mit Humor.  The performance of the five pieces derives from Lugano 25 June 2012.  Both the Langsam and Nicht schnell movements express an intimately poised melancholy from Eusebius. The two closing movements revert to Schumann’s sense of stylized dance forms, here in the aggressively resolved mode of Florestan. The 1850 Op. 73 Fantasy Pieces – originally conceived for clarinet and piano—with Martha Argerich derive from Lugano, 22 June 2011. Schumann had long been enchanted by E.T.A. Hoffmann and his own musical creation, Kreisler. Marked “tenderly and expressively,” the opening piece educes just such romantic affects from Capucon and Argerich, enchanted by each other’s capacity for poetry in music.

The second piece, marked Lebhaft, leicht, provides a lyrical repose in typical, dreamy Schumann style.  The last, Rasch und mit Feuer, certainly could end our audition, since its furious and blazing realization manages to condense a fine program of Schumann’s intimate and intense chamber music offerings into that same ball that illumines Andrew Marvell’s passionate admonition to his coy mistress.

—Gary Lemco

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