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CD Feature/ Sol Gabetta: "Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saens, Ginastera"

img  Tobias

There’s not a single doubt possible: She must be in love. For everyone with an open heart for the Cello (and this audience is growing quickly all aorund the world), the debut of Sol Gabetta must have been in the upper half of their personal wish list for 2006. It was the live scene, the sweat of the stage and the heat of the moment, rather than winning some highly contestable contests, which elevated her from the league of hopeful talents to the ranks of the big ones. Serious and academic publications suddenly found themselves using words like “sexy” and merely reading about her collaborations with violinists Patricia Kopatchinskaya and Baiba Skride conveyed some of the energy from the concert hall to the living room and made one wish they’d come to town again some time soon. Anitcipations were high, yet now that it’s here, her debut is so much different from what could be expected.

So what’s the difference between the forecasts and the finished product? It certainly isn’t the line-up of composers. Tchaikovsky always fostered a special relationship with the Cello and his “Rococo Variations”, as well as the compact “Nocturne” are popular highlights of the repertoire. Saint-Saens’s “Cello Concerto” meanwhile, is a perfect showcase for a versatile musician like Gabetta, offering a wide range of possible expressions. And her love for modern music shines through in her rendition of Alberto Ginastera’s “Pampeana”, a cinematic work of roughly seven minutes. The choice seems all the more natural, as it reflects her different cultural influences: A mixture of Russian and Argentinian blood, she’s the owner of a French passport. With that and her overwhelming  concerts in mind, there was a strong case for her album being a volcanic erruption of energy. Instead, it turns out to be a romantic and poetic effort, with the emphasis on cautious dynamic changes and subtle variations in tonal colours. Part of that has to do with the slightly retained playing of the “Münchner Rundfunkorchester” and the mix, which favours intimacy over spaceousness. The result is an almost chamber musical sound, which lacks power, but compensates this with warmth and a sympathetic directness. But even more important is Sol’s playing, which is supple, smooth and unagitated. Merely on two occasions, in the forceful opening of the Saint-Saens and in the raw and jagged contures of the “Pampeana” does she put her muscular and ecstatic side on display. Apart from that, she is happy to stay in her mould of tenderness and concentrate on accentuating those all-important nuances. Her “Rococo Variations” certainly offer more care for details than the Ikea catalogue and she has the incredible gift of being able to give each note a meaning of its own and of making it a bridge to the next.

Believe it or not: Amidst all those falling sales figures and articles on a supposed crisis, this is an optimistic and upbeat album. What it isn’t is a 1:1 representation of what to expect when hearing Sol Gabetta play in concert. Maybe a true live album remains the medium of choice for that. But even though this defies expectations, her debut is a strong personal statement. From somwhere deep inside of her, Gabetta has found a source for giving more than she takes. It could be the inspiration from her long tour, the applause from the press or simply her positive nature. But as we said before: We’ll place our bets on something else.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Sol Gabetta
Homepage: Sony BMG Masterworks

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