Jacqueline du Pré was only 23 when she recorded her heady account of the Brahms cello sonatas. But this new recording trumps that, for Bruno Philippe was just 21 and his pianist, the sonorously named Tanguy de Williencourt, only a couple of years older. Both studied at the Paris Conservatoire and they offer playing of splendidly assured maturity and insight, the two artists finding the requisite serenity for the closing moments of the E minor Sonata's opening movement.
From the off, Philippe's approach compels you to listen, to embark on the journey with him, even if the overly close recording catches every breath and every bow sound. True, there are times when I wanted a bit more freedom: in the First Sonata's inner movement and the Adagio affettuoso of the Second, Isserlis and Fournier (in his old Decca recording with Backhaus) find more flexibility and a greater degree of reactivity with their pianists (as does du Pré in the latter, though at a famously slow pace); but Philippe makes a particularly soulful sound in the treble register, and the climax of the Adagio, with its fervent pizzicato, is conveyed with great immediacy. The third movement is unashamedly romantic, while there's plenty of imaginative story-telling in the finale.
I found the Schumann just a degree less convincing. Isserlis finds more light and shade in the second of the Fantasiestücke and an almost miraculous elasticity in the third, though again Philippe's intrinsic tone is alluring and Williencourt imbues Schumann's rhythms with a springy buoyancy. It will be intriguing to hear what these two considerable talents do next.
Source: Harriet Smith (gramophone.co.uk)
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
♪ Sonata for cello and piano No.1 in E minor, Op.38 (1862-1865)
i. Allegro non troppo
ii. Allegro quasi Menuetto
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
♪ Fantasiestücke for cello and piano, Op.73 (1849)
i. Zart und mit Ausdruck
ii. Lebhaft, leicht
iii. Rasch und mit Feuer
♪ Sonata for cello and piano No.2 in F major, Op.99 (1886)
i. Allegro vivace
ii. Adagio affetuoso
iii. Allegro passionato
iv. Allegro molto
Bruno Philippe, cello
Tanguy de Williencourt, piano
Recorded on September 26-28, 2014, at "Espace Maurice Fleuret", Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse de Paris, France
Piano: Steinway & Sons, courtesy of CNSMDP
Cello: Italian cello of 1694
Evidence Classics 2015
(HD 1080p – Audio video)
Johannes Brahms composed his two sonatas for cello and piano at an interval of twenty years. The first, in E minor, Op.38, was written between 1862 and 1865. It was dedicated to his cellist friend Josef Gänsbacher in thanks for his support for Brahms's nomination to the position of director of the Vienna Singakademie in 1863. Throughout the work, the piano carries on a dialogue with the warm, ample sound of the cello in a fascinating polyphony, seeming to overlap in a perfectly balanced texture of timbres. Originally in four movements, Brahms decided to omit the slow movement in order to keep only three of similar nature: Allegro non troppo, Allegretto quasi minuetto and Allegro. Owing to its fresh, cheerful colour, it is sometimes nicknamed "Pastoral". The structure is of great clarity, recalling the influence on Brahms of the Baroque and Classical traditions and his masters, Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. The first movement contains three distinct themes, repeated in the same order both in the development and in the recapitulation. The first is highly expressive, the second, more rhythmic, whereas the third resembles the noble, profound character of the beginning, all in easygoing openness. The middle movement, in 3/4, is bi-thematic with a graceful first motif contrasting with the more impassioned central trio. As for the final movement, it begins with the assertive character of the pianist's left hand. The development of the themes is written in fugal style, this use of counterpoint reminding us of how much Brahms venerated the art of Bach, and seeming to quote, in homage, the Contrapunctus 13 of The Art of Fugue.
Initially scored for clarinet in A and piano, the cycle of three Fantasiestücke, Op.73 by Robert Schumann was composed in only two days, in February 1849. These pieces are the first of a series of miniatures, duos for piano and wind instrument. As soon as they were finished, Schumann pointed out that they could also be played on stringed instruments. Here, the cello's singing, vibrant phrasing replaces the clarinet's natural, lyrical suppleness. The opening piece, Zart und mit Austruck ("tender and with expression") in A minor, is of tender gentleness. The Lied form contrasts two distinctly different themes in A-B-A order, followed by a coda reprising previously heard ideas. The first creates a dialogue between the cello's melody and triplets in the right hand of the piano. More modulating and agitated, the second links a succession of arpeggios by contrary motion between the instruments, which, moreover, juxtapose binary and ternary rhythmic formulas. Linked attacca, the second piece, Lebhaft, leicht (quick, light) in A major, is more abrupt. The beginning is reminiscent of the opening motif of the first piece, still with triplets in the piano. The central episode in F major creates a tight dialogue between the two instruments round fast rising scales in triplets. The coda gradually dies out before the sudden attack of the brilliant last piece in A major, Rasch, mit Feuer (fast, spiritedly). It takes up thematic ideas from the first two pieces and states a virtuosic motif-refrain, with lively rising parallel arpeggios between piano and cello. It closes with along, furiously paced coda.
During a stay near Lake Thun in Switzerland in the summer of 1886, Brahms composed several chamber works, including his Sonata No.2 in F major, Op.99 for cello and piano. The work was first performed the following 24 November in Vienna, with cellist Robert Hausmann and Brahms himself at the piano. In a very different atmosphere from the first sonata of twenty years earlier, this work of old age comprises four impassioned movements. The first, Allegro vivace, is in sonata form with three themes. One, brimming with tremolos, suggests substantial orchestral writing; the next is more vertical, and the third, much more lyrical. They are then developed and recapitulated in a darker harmony. The second movement, Adagio affetuoso, uses the cello's pizzicati in particular (alternating with the bow) in sublime melodies, accompanied by a restrained, more sober piano. The third movement, Allegro passionato, renews with the fieriness of the opening movement but in ternary (6/8). After the quivering scherzo contrasts a central part, the trio, borne by a melancholic cello. The first theme is repeated in full before the beginning of the last movement. This Allegro molto, in F major, presents a motif-refrain inspired by a cheerful German folk song that is inserted between several other themes of different dynamics. The coda, initially enchanting, ends brilliantly.
Source: Gabrielle Oliveira Guyon, April 2015 | Translation: John Tyler Tuttle (CD Booklet)
Bruno Philippe was born in 1993 in Perpignan, France. There, he began studying the cello with Marie-Madeleine Mille and regularly attended Yvan Chiffoleau's masterclasses. In 2008, he pursued his studies at the CRR in Paris in the class of Raphael Pidoux. In 2009 he was unanimously accepted by the Paris National Conservatory of Music and Dance in the class of Jerome Pernoo and joined Claire Desert's chamber music class. Subsequently, he participated in the masterclasses of David Geringas, Steven Isserliss, Gary Hoffman, Pieter Wispelwey and Clemens Hagen at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. Since October 2014, he has been studying as a young soloist at the Kronberg Academy with Frans Helmerson.
In November 2011, he won the third Grand Prix and the Best recital at the André Navarra International Competition. In September 2014, he won the third prize and audience prize at the International Competition of the ARD in Munich. He won a Special Prize at the International Tchaikovsky Competition in June 2015 and the Special Prize in recognition of an outstanding performance at the Grand Prix Emmanuel Feuermann in Berlin in November 2014. In 2015, Bruno Philippe was appointed Révélation Classique of the ADAMI, and in 2016, he won the Prix pour la musique of the Safran Foundation dedicated to cello. In 2017, he is laureate of the prestigious Queen Elizabeth Competition in Brussels.
Bruno Philippe has been invited to appear at the Kammersaal of the Berlin Philharmonia, La Cité de la Musique, the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, Salle Gaveau and Salle Pleyel in Paris, the Halle aux Grains in Toulouse, the Kursaal in Besançon, the Alte Oper in Frankfurt and to play with the Bayerische Rundfunk, the Münchener Kammerorchestrer, the Orchestre Philarmonique de Monte-Cazrlo, or else the Orchestre National du Capitole, Toulouse. He has also performed at the Festival Pablo Casals in Prades, the Festival de Pâques in Aix-en-Provence, La Folle Journée de Nantes, the Rheingau Musik Festival, the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival, the Festival Radio France de Montpellier, at La Roque d'Anthéron, the Amsterdam Cello Biennale, the Mozartfest Würzburg, the Munich BR Studio, Schwetzinger SWR-Festspiele, the Rheingau Musik Festival...
He has also had the chance to play with many renowned musicians: Gary Hoffman, Tabea Zimmermann, Gidon Kremer, Christian Tetzlaff, David Kadouch, Alexandra Conounova, Renaud Capuçon, Jérôme Ducros, Antoine Tamestit, Sarah Nemtanu, Lise Berthaud, Christophe Coin, Jérôme Pernoo, Raphaël Pidoux, Emmanuelle Bertrand, as well as Violoncelles Français or Les Dissonances (David Grimal).
During the next few months, Bruno Philippe can be seen in concertos, above all with the Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt and Orchesterakademy of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival conducted by Christoph Eschenbach, with the Orchestre Dijon-Bourgogne conducted by Gabor Takacs-Nagy, with the Orchestre de la Garde Républicaine or else the Junges Sinfonieorchester Münster. He will be performing at the Konzerthaus in Berlin, the Auditorium du Louvre in Paris, the Alte Oper in Francfort, Salle Cortot in Paris, the Festival de Pâques de Deauville, the Chorégies d'Orange, or else Les Victoires de la Musique Classique at the Auditorium de Radio-France, Paris.
His first album, devoted to Brahms's Sonatas, recorded with the pianist Tanguy de Williencourt for the Evidence Classic label, came out in 2015. In 2017 he joins the label Harmonia Mundi and releases a new album around Beethoven and Schubert's sonatas, with Tanguy de Williencourt.
He was also awarded scholarships from the Safran Foundation for music, the Raynaud-Zurfluh Foundation, the Rheingold Foundation, the AMOPA, the Banque Populaire Foundation, and in August 2014 won the Nicolas Firmenich price at the Verbier Festival. He also received the support of the "Christa Verhein-Stiftung" for his studies at the Kronberg Academy.
Bruno Philippe plays a fine Tononi cello kindly loaned to him through the Beare's International Violin Society.
A true Renaissance musician, the French pianist Tanguy de Williencourt (b. 1990) is an accomplished soloist and chamber musician, who is also pursuing studies as a conductor.
After having completed, in 2013, his Master's degrees in piano, accompaniment and vocal coaching with highest honors at the Paris Conservatoire, he entered the prestigious Artist Diploma Programme there, and was admitted to follow Alain Altinoglu's orchestral conducting class. The pianists who have particularly influenced him include Roger Muraro, Jean-Frédéric Neuburger, and Claire Désert.
Besides, advice of Maria João Pires, Christoph Eschenbach and Paul Badura-Skoda particularly impact him.
A recipient in 2014 of the Blüthner Foundation award given annually to one outstanding pianist at the Paris Conservatoire, Tanguy has also been a prize winner at the Yamaha (2008) and Fauré (2013) competitions.
Tanguy's solo and chamber music performances have taken him to the TivoliVredenburg in Utrecht, Kyoto's Alti Hall in Kyoto, St Peterburg Philharmonic's Great Hall or Berlin Philharmonic's Chamber Music Hall, and to leading French venues including the Folle Journée de Nantes, Chopin à Bagatelle, La Roque d'Anthéron, or else to the French National Radio.
His first record dedicated to Brahms and Schumann with cellist Bruno Philippe was released in 2015.
Bruno Philippe & Tanguy de Williencourt interpret Ludwig van Beethoven & Franz Schubert (Audio video)
Antonín Dvořák: Cello Concerto in B minor – Bruno Philippe, Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra, Stéphane Denève (HD 1080p)
Francis Poulenc: Sonate pour violoncelle et piano – Bruno Philippe, Tanguy de Williencourt (HD 1080p)
Joseph Haydn: Cello Concerto No.1 in C major – Bruno Philippe, hr-Sinfonieorchester, Christoph Eschenbach (HD 1080p)