Play: Works for Cello and Piano
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The French cellist Edgar Moreau can already look back on a number of exceptional achievements: among them becoming the winner of the Second Prize in Russias formidable Tchaikovsky Competition at age 17, winning the Young Soloist Prize in the 2009 Rostropovich Cello Competition in Paris, and performing with such distinguished musicians as Valery Gergiev, Gidon Kremer, András Schiff, Yuri Bashmet, Krzysztof Penderecki, Gustavo Dudamel, Renaud Capuçon, Nicholas Angelich, Frank Braley, Khatia Buniatishvili, Gérard Caussé, and the Talich Quartet. In 2013 his potential was recognized by Frances top music awards, Les Victoires de la Musique, which named him the years Révélation among young classical instrumentalists. Moreau recorded his first release for Erato with pianist Pierre-Yves Hodique. It is a collection of short pieces both virtuosic and lyrical. Rostropovichs composition Humoresque is featured alongside works by Paganini, Chopin, Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Dvoák, Massenet, Schubert, Poulenc, and Tchaikovsky, among others.
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As it is, the program works pretty well. There is nothing here long enough to tax the patience of non or only mildly interested classical music listeners; the performers present the pieces in sterling interpretations; and Erato provide them pretty good sound. It's a winning combination, even if so many (seventeen tracks) short works (nothing over five or ten minutes each) may seem a bit spread out shotgun style for dedicated classical fans.
I think the main thing about all the performances on the disc is that Moreau and Hodique appear to be having a good time playing them. Not only are both artists meticulous virtuosos, they seem to love the music they're playing and love playing it together. Their musical partnership yields energetic, pleasurable, and technically satisfying results, the two performers continuously engaging in friendly instrumental dialogue and obvious good humor, even in the overtly sentimental tunes. The album is a good deal of fun.
Since the music Moreau and Hodique have chosen is very popular and comes from just about everybody in the Romantic era and a little into the modern, let me point out just a few of the works I especially enjoyed. They begin with a genuine curtain-raiser in Vittorio Monti's Csardas, probably that composer's most-famous tune. Like the Hungarian dances that influenced it, the piece starts with a slow, poignant introduction, followed by a rousingly fast, Gypsy-inflected conclusion. The performers handle both segments with equal poise, bringing out the work's sentimental qualities and ending it in happy good cheer. Moreau's cello work sounds appropriately soulful and exhilarating by turns, and Hodique proves an able accompanist by matching but never overshadowing him at every turn.
And so it goes. Elgar's Salut d'amour sounds sweetly beguiling in Moreau's hands; Faure's Elegie is properly sad and wistful; Poulenc's Les Chemins de l'amour has all the qualities of a popular song in waltz time; Tchaikovsky's Valse sentimentale is satisfactorily melancholic; Popper's "Dance of the Elves" has a Mendelssohnian sparkle; Schubert's Ave Maria is as melodic as you'll hear; and the duo go out in style with Chopin's Introduction et Polonaise brillante. Then there are all the good things in between these numbers. The disc is a treat.
For the home listener, the question of how well Mr. Moreau might handle a longer, more-serious piece of music--a concerto or a sonata, for example--remains unanswered. But one thing is sure from listening to this album of short favorites: the man plays a mean cello.
Happily, too, it's one of the best-sounding discs I've heard from Erato. The two instrumentalists appear well positioned between the speakers. Both instruments are clear and detailed. Dynamic range, impact, and transient response are all suitable for the occasion. Moreover, air, bloom, room resonance, and dimensionality sound realistic enough to give the presentation an overall lifelike feeling. Nicely done, Erato.