The Strad Issue: January 2014
Description: Brotherly rivalry and collaboration on display in tasteful performances
Musicians: Renaud Capuçon (violin) Gautier Capuçon (cello) Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra/Lionel Bringuier
Composer: Saint-Saëns

Saint-Saëns’s music is always brilliantly crafted and when this is matched with memorable melodic invention, he creates a work strong enough to remain a central force in the repertoire. Of course the Cello Concerto no.1 ticks all these boxes – the continuous three movements are littered with sparkling crystalline invention, and restrained Classical elegance is set against melodramatic fervour. Splendid in the ascending false harmonics, Gautier Capuçon possesses fantastic bowing virtuosity, from the ascending spiccato double-stops to the floating descending arpeggio figures. Equally he has the taste to deliver the captivating melodies with nuance, and yet maintains a tactful restraint to prevent the music sliding into the obvious.   

His brother Renaud brings a stormier virtuosity to the Third Violin Concerto’s opening Allegro. The Andantino is exquisitely sensitive, with expressive and supportive orchestral playing, aided by a warm, clear recording. Most remarkable, however, is his clarity and depth of sound in the highest sonorities of the violin.

La muse et le poète is more rhapsodic, with the violin’s invention in dialogue with lyrically hued cello writing. Both Capuçon brothers bring intense expression and colour to the work, and enjoy its striking melodic material. Perhaps the introspective nature of the writing is a little meandering, but this valiant performance reminds us that it is worthy of more attention.

Joanne Talbot