Paul Rivinius / Julian Steckel

French Cello Sonatas, Vol. 2: Franck, Saint-Saëns, Fauré

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There was a time when a German instrumental duo would hardly have played French music, but those days are thankfully over, and a duo like cellist Julian Steckel and pianist Paul Rivinius can offer fresh readings of not-overly-familiar French repertory. This is the pair's second album of French cello sonatas; the first contained more standard items by Ravel and Debussy. Here they stick to purely Romantic repertory, while noting that looking at it in a certain way these pieces appear as precursors to the two great French inaugurators of modern music. The opening of the Franck Violin Sonata in A minor, FWV 8 (here arranged for cello and piano by an unidentified contemporary of the composer) is a case in point: played with Steckel's hushed, poetic atmosphere it seems to need only the addition of Wagner to set the stage for the 20th century. The six short pieces by Fauré are also given wonderfully rich readings here, without a hint of conservatory rote. The Saint-Saëns Cello Sonata No. 2, Op. 123, which really is a more regular and restrained work, makes a nice contrasting item in the program. CAvi Music's engineering, done in collaboration with Deutschlandfunk at its chamber music room captures the pair's effective use of extremely quiet passages. Intelligent interpretations, beautifully executed.

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