Debussy / Poulenc
Debussy, Cello sonata | Schubert, Sonata for Arpeggione, Moments musicaux | Webern, Drei kleine Stücke
More jagged edges followed in the Suite française, in which Poulenc transformed 16th-century music by Claude Gervaise into elegant dances, alternatively square-footed and graceful, and a strange, half-muted Complainte. Tharaud's savvy way with early music, attributed by him to an appreciation of historically informed performance ensembles, showed through here. The half concluded with Debussy's cello sonata, one of the composer's late, masterful instrumental works -- paired on the CD with Poulenc's cello sonata, alas not heard on this program. The Debussy sonata is a beautiful, autumnal piece, solemn and wistful but also wild and playful, with hints of earlier works: the repeated low Cs and other parts of La cathédrale engloutie (first movement), Minstrels and Golliwog's Cakewalk (second movement). The temptation is to let the loud, rollicking parts roll, but Queyras and Tharaud wisely never overplayed the room, aware of the superb acoustic of Mrs. Coolidge's auditorium.
An Austrian second half did not fall quite as perfectly into place. Schubert's "Arpeggione" sonata, D. 821, profited most from the freer flowing melodic sense of Queyras's playing, even though in the last movement his left hand, perhaps tiring, had some intonation misses. It was an ingenious idea to introduce the work with the pointillistic miniatures of Anton Webern's Drei kleine Stücke, op. 11, played without warning in continuity with the Schubert, so that the capacity audience applauded after the first movement of the "Arpeggione" (one could not possibly mistake Schubert for Webern, or could one?). Half-formed thoughts were tangled in a quiet mass in the first movement, followed by a clot of more violent phrases in the second and an expressionistic wash of colors in the third. Listening to this music, played with disarming beauty, one was reminded of Queyras's comments in his interview with Jens that he plays modern music not out of a sense of duty but because it appeals like any other music.
Tom Huizenga, French spirit prevails in cello-piano recital (Washington Post, March 15)
Allan Kozinn, Muscular Renditions of Bach, Schubert and Debussy (New York Times, March 8)
The next concert in the series at the Library of Congress will feature Voces Intimae, a fortepiano trio that will perform music by Hummel, Mozart, and Schubert (March 26, 8 pm).