Tim Homfray watches the French cellist’s recital at London’s Wigmore Hall on 14 September 2021 

Gautier Capuçon

Gautier Capuçon opened this solo recital with what one might normally expect as an encore: an exquisite performance of The Song of the Birds, arranged by Casals. He followed it with one of the works Casals did so much to put into the repertoire: Bach’s Cello Suite no.1 in G major. This was mainly a happy account, with the central Sarabande sombre but moving forward, balanced by an exuberant Courante, graceful minuets and the final Gigue a jolly dance. The first of Dutilleux’s 3 Strophes sur le nom de Sacher, ‘Un pocco indeciso’, had a strong narrative shape, and there were clear-toned harmonics amid the complexities of the Andante sostenuto. The scurrying final Vivace was full of pizzicato high-jinks.

After the interval Capuçon introduced Kodály’s horribly challenging Sonata for solo cello op.8 with the plea ‘Wish me luck’. There was no need (or maybe it worked): he was magisterial. His technical command almost had a personality of its own. In the first movement there was muscularity, with a big vibrato, and a great emotional range. He brought rhythmic flexibility and a sense of dramatic improvisation to the central Adagio, and wildness to the final Allegro molto vivace, maintaining clarity in extremis.