Richard Strauss – Don Quixote & Cello Works
Ophélie Gaillard, cello
Alexandra Conunova: violin; Dov Scheindlin, viola; Vassilis Varvaresos, piano; Beatrice Uria Monzón, mezzosoprano
Orchestre Symphonique National Tchèque
Julien Madmondet, conduction
Ophélie Gaillard’s latest recording wonderfully highlight the lush melodies of Richard Strauss’s works for cello. Despite the French cellist does not conceal her impossibility to admire Strauss as a man, she cannot deny to be fascinated by his cello works, which she records here in its entirety. The album opens with the Sonata for cello and piano in F major, op. 6, that Strauss composed in 1883 when he was just nineteen for his friend Hans Wilhan, and with the Romanze in F major, op. 13. The pivotal work is however Don Quixote (1898), which is original for its combination of cello, viola and violin to transpose into music the characters of Don Quixote, Sancho Panza and Dulcinea respectively. Finally, the first version of Morgen, which requires the cello instead of the violin next to the piano, rounds off the collection.
Sonata and Romanze
Ophélie Gaillard’s soulful rendition of Strauss’s works reveals not only her enthusiasm for them, but also the best qualities – flexibility, enthusiasm and refinement – of her playing. She performs the Sonata in F major with pianist Vassilis Varvaresos and the chemistry between the two of them is unquestionable.
The sparkling vitality of the first movement is wonderfully summarized by the shimmering and vibrant sound of the piano and by the fluid and passionate sound of the cello, while in the second movement stands out the languid and intense sound of the cello which in the last part colours with endless sweetness. In the last movement, the two instruments combine to represent a picture where melancholy and élan blend without one prevailing over the other. Both Gaillard and Varvaresos are remarkable for the exquisite delicacy they are able to elicit from their instruments from time to time, next to the most flamboyant colours that characterize the most animated parts.
The Romanze shows Gaillard playing with the Orchestre Symphonique National Tchèque conducted by Julien Madmondet. In this soaring piece of music, next to the mesmerizing, soft sound of the orchestra, Gaillard’s cello is able to depict various and delicate feelings with exquisite grace and vigour.
Don Quixote is the most demanding piece of this collection, but our artists perform it finely. The superbly recorded, lustrous tone of the orchestra and its stunning colours highlight the sumptuousness of Strauss’s music with its many changing moods and shades. These features allows characteristic sketches, as that of Sancho, who violist Dov Scheindlin portrays in a gaudy and humorous way, and that of Dulcinea (Alexandra Conunova plays the violin) with its charming allure. Gaillard, for her part, is remarkable for her commitment and transport, which allows her to portray a subtle and rich portrait of Cervantes’s hero.
Throughout Don Quixote, the tone becomes more and more pressing and the representation of the various scenes is powerful indeed, as in the case of the nervous atmosphere of the fourth variation (The adventure with the procession of penitents), or of the “windy” seventh variation (Don Quixote’s ride through the air), where the woodwinds of the orchestra are admirable for the effect they create. Moreover, in the Finale where Don Quixote dies, Gaillard finds some nuances which are touching for their simple and yet intense emotion.
The Lied Morgen provides the album with a lyrical ending. This time too, Gaillard and Varvaresos are engaged in a dialogue which is highly sympathetic and communicative and they wonderfully support the warm, beautiful and expressive voice of mezzosoprano Beatrice Uria Monzón.
This is a complex but amazing recording. Ophélie Gaillard’s accomplishment, the excellent orchestra, the sensitive rendition of Julien Madmondet and, in the Sonata, Romanze and Morgen, the fine accompaniment of Vassilis Varvaresos make this a wonderful experience and present Strauss’s music at its best.