The Art of Pierre Fournier

by | Dec 2, 2005 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

The Art of Pierre Fournier

Program: BACH: Suite for Solo Cello No. 3 in C Major, BWV 1009; KODALY:
Sonata for Solo Cello, Op. 8; SCHUMANN: Adagio and Allegro for Cello
and Piano, Op. 70; DEBUSSY: Sonata for Cello and Piano in D Minor;
FRANCOEUR: Sonata for Cello and Piano in E Major
Pierre Fournier, cello/ Guy Bourassa, piano
Studio: VAI DVD 4356 
Video: 4:3 Black & White
Audio: PCM mono
Length: 76 minutes
Rating: ****

Taped by Radio-Canada Television 7 May 1959 and 22 November 1950, the
eminent cellist Pierre Fournier (1906-1986) makes elegant work out of
everything he touches, in diverse styles, with the Kodaly Sonata’s
being something quite special, since Fournier never recorded it
commercially. Despite his absolutely conservative demeanor, Fournier
has the opening Bach Suite No. 3 capering in its dance steps as well as
sighing elegiacally in the Sarabande. The concluding Gigue dances,
true, but it also whistles with aggression. It would seem that only one
camera is operative in the Bach and Kodaly, fading in and out for
close-ups and medium shots of the seated Fournier, whom we can note
sings the melody lines to himself. The side views of Fournier detach
his ever-active left hand, so its rapid shifts on the strings take on a
life of their own, a kind of artistic Beast With 5 Fingers.

The Kodaly is the song of a lion, a powerful, virtuoso work with
declamatory and psalmic passages reminiscent of Ernest Bloch. The
camera virtually climbs on the cello’s bridge for some of the
fingerwork and bowing between the two hands. The facility with which
Fournier negotiates even the most grueling leaps and stretches is a
thing of beauty. To watch his little finger of the left hand alone is
to behold a nimble dancer in thrall to mercurial Slavic gods. The
Adagio starts in darkness, with only the silhouette of Fournier making
music. Several times the lighting cancels out all but Fournier’s head
and hands, so the high wail of this meditation is literally
disembodied. The use of double exposure manages to capture the vertical
aspects of Kodaly’s harmony. The later duo concert with pianist Guy
Bourassa immediately opens up our sense of space, since the cameras
give us frequent perspective shots of the two artists from several
points of view. The Schumann Adagio (for horn or cello) requires
extensive leaps despite the flowing melodic line. The Debussy Sonata is
all business, although its second movement consciously sings high to
imitate a troubadour’s song. Francoeur, whose music I knew only by way
of ersatz Fritz Kreisler, seems a sunny, dancing disposition, a cross
of galant and early classical styles. In three charming movements, the
E Major Sonata simply reaffirms Fournier’s innate aristocratic
sensibility, a genuine prince of his instrument.

–Gary Lemco

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