The Strad Issue: January 2011
Description: An engaging collection of Saint-Saëns’s complete music for cello
Musicians: Luigi Piovano (cello) Nazzareno Carusi, Luisa Prayer (piano) Orchestra del Teatro Marrucino/Piero Bellugi
Composer: Saint-Saëns

Luigi Piovano’s outgoing performances of the two Saint-Saëns concertos perfectly illustrate the spontaneity that happens in live concerts, where the feeling of sheer exhilaration makes it easy to accept fleeting moments of queasy intonation. An admirable technique sends him flying around the instrument in mercurial passages, and that thorny passage of double-stopping in the Second Concerto is a difficulty easily brushed aside. If the Italian theatre orchestra as revealed in these 2009 concerts is not one of Europe’s top ranking ensembles, it offers a neat and pleasing backdrop and plays its part in making out a very good case for the neglected Second Concerto.

Piovano, who is presently the principal cellist of the Santa Cecilia Academy Orchestra in Rome, moves to the studio for the remaining tracks on the first disc. There, with the pianist Nazzareno Carusi, he gives a powerful, imaginative and unhurried account of the unjustly neglected Second Sonata.

All of the remaining items are contained on a second disc apparently recorded in 2003 with Luisa Prayer as his partner. The rather one-dimensional sound detracts little from an elegantly phrased reading of the First Sonata, though a moment of uneasy intonation at the work’s close would have benefited from editing. A few tracks of the composer’s confectionery lead to a dramatic Allegro appassionato and a delightful account of the five-movement Suite

Small print in the accompanying booklet reveals that we hear cellos by Matteo Gofriller, Alessandro Gagliano and Arturo Fracessi, and, without explanation, a gorgeous Steinway piano from 1883 is used on the second disc.