Sébastien Lépine

Romantic Sonatas for Cello & Piano

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With a title like Romantic Sonatas for Cello & Piano, where does an artist begin when choosing a program? The repertoire that fits that category is so vast and popular. Although the three works cellist Sébastien Lépine chose for this album are all technically twentieth century compositions, his choices are clever. By coupling the Rachmaninoff sonata (one of the best-known works in the repertoire) with the Ponce and Coulthard sonatas, he is able to produce an album that carries appeal for those seeking well-known works as well as those interested in lesser known compositions. Apart from programming, however, is the actual playing. The first disc features the fiery, rhythmically driven Ponce sonata of 1922 and the more esoteric and melancholy Coulthard sonata of 1947. Lépine's performance of these two sonatas is satisfactory, but nothing more. His playing does little to make listeners fall in love with either work. His tone color is rather bland and intonation is sometimes questionable. These issues are even more prevalent in the Rachmaninoff, where Lépine's interpretation is almost metronomically safe and stodgy. Pianist Arturo Nieto-Dorantes does little to better the situation as he appears to be unduly concerned with making every note individually discernible rather than achieving any sweep or flow. Those looking for an introduction to Ponce or Coulthard will find this recording acceptable, but should absolutely look elsewhere for Rachmaninoff filled with more passion and momentum.

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