Cello Sonata in a.
Cello Sonata in A,
Violin Sonata in G
(trans. for cello by V. Radutiu)
Valentin Radutiu (vc); Per Rundberg (pn)
HÄNSSLER 98654 (70:35)
It may not be 100-percent accurate to call two of the works on this disc, the Lalo and the Magnard, rarities, for they have been recorded before, but they won’t be found on the hit parade’s top 10 list of cello sonatas. Still, one would like to welcome a new recording of these largely neglected works. In transcribing for cello a very popular piece Ravel wrote for violin, instead of including another infrequently heard French cello sonata, I think Valentin Radutiu missed a golden opportunity to add value to this album. Sonatas by Gabriel Pierné, Vincent d’Indy, Léon Boëllmann, and Charles Widor all have received scant attention on disc.
Éduard Lalo (1823–1892) shares a fate similar to his near Russian contemporary, Rimsky-Korsakov. Each composer tends inevitably to be recognized by a single work for which he is famous. In the case of Lalo, it’s the
, and in the case of Rimsky-Korsakov,
. Yet both composers wrote extensively, and estimably, in a wide range of genres: symphony, concerto, tone poem, opera, song, and chamber music. In contrast, Albéric Magnard, or to give him his full name, Lucien Denis Gabriel Albéric Magnard (1865–1914) is one of those composers whose output, though of high quality, is not extensive, and who tends inevitably to be recognized by nothing. For a time, back in the 1980s and early 1990s, there was an uptick in recordings of Magnard’s works, particularly his four symphonies, but it seems not to have sparked a lasting interest. Magnard published a total of only 22 works with opus numbers, making this cello sonata one of his last. Some unknown number of unpublished works, including the scores to two operas, went up in flames in 1914 when he got into a firefight with German soldiers trespassing on his property. It’s believed they shot him and burned down his house, though the remains of the body were unidentifiable.
Cellist Valentin Radutiu’s bio says he was born in Munich in 1986, though his surname rings of a national origin other than German (Romanian perhaps?). Other than a program of cello works by Schumann, Franck, Saint-Saëns, and Ruzicka on an Oehms CD released in 2010, this new Hänssler disc appears to be Radutiu’s only other recording.
My very first impression at the outset of the Lalo sonata was that Radutiu plays with a tone big enough to fill the Grand Canyon, but it’s not a tone that’s very refined. In fact, the lower he goes on his instrument, the gruffer the sound becomes, so that by the time he reaches down for notes on his C string, the tone is a coarse, sandpaper rasp. Moreover, there doesn’t seem to be much variation in his mode of articulation, such as in the weighting and coloring of his tone; the sound is largely undifferentiated and not particularly elegant.
My second impression was that Radutiu plays with a highly impassioned, throbbing effusiveness, much of it communicated by a pulsating vibrato which, it occurred to me, might be more appropriate and effective for Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninoff than it is for these French works. The cellist’s approach, clearly shared by his pianist, Per Rundberg, is, in my opinion, simply too pushy and too loud to apprehend the subtler shadings of these scores. Of course, you can turn down the volume, but that doesn’t change the balance between the cello and piano, nor does it attenuate Radutiu’s hyper-emotionalism.
Though not that often recorded, these works have been more sensitively and idiomatically performed on the few occasions they have been committed to disc. Maria Kliegel turns in a beautiful reading of the Lalo with Bernd Glemser on a Naxos CD, and the Magnard can be had in a gorgeous performance by Mats Lidström and Bengt Forsberg on a Hyperion import CD of French cello works, which also includes the earlier-mentioned Widor sonata. Radutiu possesses a phenomenal technique, but as is sometimes the case with young players aiming to make their mark, zeal can lead them to overplay their hand. The artistry lies in finding the composer’s voice, something I’m sure this very talented cellist will do as he matures.