The Strad Issue: January 2009
Musicians: Emmanuelle Bertrand (cello) Pascal Amoyel (piano)
Composer: Grieg

Emmanuelle Bertrand and Pascal Amoyel present an almost ideal performance of Grieg’s Cello Sonata. Supported by a wonderfully vivid recording, they elicit a totally compelling narrative in the first movement. The ensuing Andante achieves a marvellous poetic lyricism that balances spontaneity with a tautly controlled sense of musical line, while the finale is dazzling and intense, and its forceful conclusion is delivered with captivating élan.

Instead of coupling this much cherished work with another Romantic warhorse, these artists have adopted a far more imaginative strategy of presenting it within the framework of a set of enterprising arrangements of the composer’s Lyric Pieces for cello and piano, and have also included the composer’s own transcription of the central Allegretto of his C minor Violin Sonata. These works chart a personal diary of Grieg’s development from his early years as a student in Leipzig to his compositional maturity and include many evocative moments, for example in ‘Drömmesyn’, where the harmonic weave under the melody even offers a hint of Impressionism. Some of the arrangements use the cello in a most inventive manner, for example in ‘Heimweh’, where the middle section deploys the instrument to produce a wiry folk timbre. Other earlier pieces (such as ‘Arietta’) charm with simpler melodic Romanticism while the more dynamic ‘Troldtog’ marches to feisty musical fireworks. Performed together, the pieces tend towards a rather introvert nature and one could have wished for an even wider range of moods. Nonetheless, this marvellous disc allows us to savour Grieg’s alluring harmonies to the full.   

Joanne Talbot