The Mercurial World of Schumann's Cello

Mar 11, 2019

Sol Gabetta says that she can only touch her audience with “something that touches me,” and her latest recording does just that, with Schumann’s pieces for cello – our CD of the Week.

Cellist Sol Gabetta describes herself as half Argentinian and half Russian, with a French passport. Now 37, she’s built a career based on a profoundly generous impulse to share. The cello, she says, has always been a good fit physically, and from the very start, she heard that it “speaks with a human voice.”

Schumann heard that, too. He had played the cello for a time after realizing that damage to his hands would keep him from a career as a pianist. In 1850, it took him only two weeks to compose the cello concerto, and he kept considering it and tweaking it until 1854, when his own inner demons overwhelmed him – a mental breakdown that marked the end of his music and, two years later, the end of his life.

Gabetta plays the concerto on a 1759 Guadagnini cello, with the Basel Chamber Orchestra on period instruments. The recording is intimate, with Gabetta intoning every consonant and vowel with a real loving intensity. There’s a beautiful synchronicity with the orchestra through every outburst and fragile decay. This is a piece that gets more personal with every hearing.

The CD also includes the three Fantasy Pieces, Op. 73; the Five Pieces in Folk Style, and the Adagio and Allegro. For these Gabetta is joined by her good friend, pianist Bertrand Chamayou.  They have a playful and heartfelt real-life friendship, which must be part of what fuels their amazing musical connection. Here, Chamayou plays a piano of Schumann’s time – an 1847 Streicher from Vienna – which is downright haunting. It’s touching here, too, to hear Gabetta in search of a sound that mirrors Schumann’s mercurial and restless inner life.

Here’s a taste of Gabetta and Chamayou’s musical connection – the Five Pieces in Folk Style, filmed in France:

For more information and to purchase this album, visit ArkivMusic.