The Strad Issue: January 2006
Musicians: Sol Gabetta (cello) Munich Radio Orchestra, Ari Rasilainen (conductor)
Composer: Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saëns, Ginastera

Sol Gabetta and her gorgeous Giovanni Battista Guadagnini cello of 1759 combine in a recording of outstanding quality to produce the most beautiful cello sound I have ever heard on disc. Just sample track five, the third of the Rococo Variations, where the instrument sings in a way that recalls Jacqueline Du Pré’s sublime Elgar. The young Argentinian can be a little capricious in her tempos and phrasing, but there is such innate musicianship in every twist and turn of the score that she readily persuades me that the composer would have wished it that way. Technically her playing is immaculate, and the fast variations are dispatched with real brio in spotlessly clean intonation. But above all it is her bowing control – so quickly changing the colour of a note – that impresses. Even with the vast choice of recordings available I would happily commend this as your library version.

To balance the brilliance and infectious happiness that pervades much of the Saint-Saëns First Concerto, Gabetta explores at leisure the feeling of nostalgia in the first movement, while the gentle charm of the central movement is entirely captivating. Even with her formidable virtuosity the fast tempos in the finale are a mite ambitious and sound breathless, though it is a minor reservation in a highly persuasive reading.

As welcome additions we have attractive accounts of Tchaikovsky’s remaining three cello scores, and Alberto Ginastera’s Pampeana no.2 in its first recording in the version with orchestral accompaniment. For Gabetta the South American sounds offer a display of her multitude of tonal colours.

The accompaniments are serviceable, but Ari Rasilainen is impeccable in his rapport with Gabetta.