The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Pierre Fournier (cello) Franz Holetschek (piano)
Composer: Brahms, Kodály, Debussy, Tchaikovsky

Recorded live at the 1958 Salzburg Festival, Pierre Fournier proves his credentials as one of the legendary cellists of the 20th century. His performances come across compellingly throughout, despite the poor mono sound and some inaccuracies – the result of live recordings with no patching afterwards. He is on top form in the Kodály Solo Sonata, a work that needs firm steering to retain the audience’s attention, especially in the multi-sectioned last movement. Fournier accomplishes this brilliantly while injecting a flavour of the improvisatory excitement that so often fuels folk music.

Tchaikovsky’s Variations are given a dazzling performance, although some of the bravura passagework is a little fast for impeccably clarity, though that is also part of the great frisson of electricity that charges a live recital. The lyrical variations are enchanting, and the impact of the dramatic writing fully revealed in his interpretation. Debussy’s Sonata is again carefully managed so that the listener is drawn from the first note to the last, with pithy characterisation of all the intervening phrases. The highlight of this demanding recital, though, is the Brahms F major Sonata, which has exquisite harmonic colouring. Fournier vividly conjures up the pathos of the Adagio, in contrast to the unswerving fervour in the ensuing Allegro passionato, both firmly controlled within the Classical–Romantic boundaries.   

Joanne Talbot