A PROFOUND CELLO
ANTOINE PIERLOT DELIVERED A SUPERB VERSION OF « SCHELOMO » BY ERNEST BLOCH
Last night, in Poirel Hall, the city of Nancy was delighted to find once again Rani Calderon leading the Lyric and Symphonic Orchestra, along with the young cellist Antoine Pierlot who had delivered, last December, a magnificent version of Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto no. 2. This time, the soloist tackled “Schelomo”, Ernest Bloch’s Hungarian Rhapsody, with a remarkable depth of expression and a superb sense of phrasing. In this score, where the cello embodies the voice of King Solomon, the orchestra evokes the crowd reacting to verses from the Book of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” The orchestration is sumptuous and, in the face of this rich palette of tones, the cello score unfolds a nostalgic discourse of a rare intensity. Antoine Pierlot’s elegant playing finds, in the orchestra led by Rani Calderon, a finely tuned partner that knows how to magnify this song coming from the heart and from the gut. This piece, too rarely performed, was followed by an encore, a Bach piece performed with an exceptional interiority, while both works were framed by two pieces by Beethoven.
Didier HEMARDINQUER/Est Républicain
Last night in Poirel Hall it was the Russian conductor, Anton Lubchenko, who led the Nancy Lyric and Symphonic Orchestra in all Russian program.
With Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 2, one plunges into a completely other atmosphere: one of mystery, lyricism and sarcasm. Shostakovitch blends these different moods with a consummate art of discourse and orchestration. The young soloist Antoine Pierlot was able to convey, with magnificent finesse, these different atmospheres with a cello sound that was ample, elegant, but also poetic and dreamy. The marriage between song and cello with the beat of percussion instruments is a curiosity that rewards the listener of this splendid score. As an encore, Antoine Pierlot performed a Bach piece that was sumptuous in its depth and restraint.
Didier HEMARDINQUER/Est Républicain
Spirit and the Letter
BENJAMIN BRITTEN Suites for Cello, no. 1, 2 and 3
Antoine PIERLOT - 2010–DDD-71’59–Liner notes in French and English – Transart live
Benjamin Britten composed these three Suites for Cello with his Russian friend Mstislav Rostropovitch in mind. Paying homage to those of J.S. Bach, Britten’s Suites adhere directly to this lineage while still leaving the imprint that marks the piece with of his personal style. French cellist Antoine Pierlot, whose talent was revealed to the public in 2009 in the course of the Victoires de la Musique competition, proposes here a judicious interpretation that both plumbs the work’s depths and explores its form. With impeccable mastery of his instrument, he offers a magnificent defense of this demanding score. With concentration he follows the lines of each Suite, taking into consideration its formal aspects, such as the prelude Canto of the First Suite, which returns periodically, as does the content, highly charged with that incisive style associated with the meditative lyricism typical of Britten. The Second Suite, whose formal structure is closely aligned with the Suites of J. S. Bach, reveals, under the bow of the French cellist, a sonorous presence as intimate as it is exalted, emerging from a polyphony of subtle and ambiguous harmonies. Antoine Pierlot does not hesitate to stretch the instrument from the lowest to the highest of its registers, as if in order to emphasize the very quintessence of the work: that of a thought bringing together a complex whole in the heart of a single instrument, the cello. A worthy heir to his 17th century predecessor, Henry Purcell, Benjamin Britten employs a final Chaconne in the Second Suite as well as a concluding Passacaglia in the Third Suite, which immediately brings to mind the famous Passacaglia of his 1945 opera Peter Grimes. In these final pieces, Antoine Pierlot displays a laudable rigour, never straying in his interpretation of the work’s initial spirit: that of an homage taking on versatile aspects, at times borrowing from Bach, from Purcell or from the Russia of his friend Rostropovich through the use of three popular songs harmonized by Tchaikovsky as well as a funeral melody called kontakion taken directly from Slavic liturgy. This disc of Benjamin Britten’s Three Suites stays true to the genre of the suite, with its inner canvas, while assessing, quite aptly, the legacy inherited since J.S. Bach. It is a question here of an interpretation that has been duly reflected upon, reconciling the spirit and the letter of the 20th century English composer’s work, without ever slipping into intellectualism or an exaggerated lyricism.
Sound – 9; Liner notes – 8; Repertory – 9; Interpretation – 9
4/5 CD Britten
This performance is no mean feat: Antoine Pierlot recorded the three Suites during a public concert. The concentration achieved by executing this performance without a safety net creates a tension that crescendos to the vast final Chaconne of the second Suite. (…) Pierlot hits the mark in Suite No. 3, whose stripped-bare quality he hollows out, without ever evading the feeling of vacuity, of solitude in the face of death. Irony is very much present in the percussive strokes of the bow in the March, and the strangeness of the brief Fanstastico grips the listener. The final Passacaglia, with its melodic fragments and its sudden contractions, its pizzicatos both relentless and tender, proves that the young man has understood everything about this secret work: the diversity of sounds emanating from his bow, and the whimsical, unpredictable quality that he brings to bear in this performance are really worth hearing.
Benjamin BRITTEN : Suites for solo Cello, N° 1, in G major, op. 72, N° 2, in D major, op. 80, i N °3, in C minor, op. 87. Antoine Pierlot, Cello. 1 CD Transart Live : TR169. TT.: 71'59.
It was Mstislav Rostropovich, to whom the Cello Sonata (1961) and the Symphony for cello and orchestra (1964) were dedicated, who convinced Britten to write once again for him the Suites for solo Cello. One immediately thinks of JS Bach, although these three pieces represent more of an homage than a composition dependent on a slavish model. The idiosyncratic style of the composer is quite present, one which exploits the technical possibilities of the instrument. The triptych of opuses 72, 80 and 87 was created between 1964 and 1971 while, as regards the Third Suite, this occurred only in 1974. It is, of course, dedicated to Slava, who premiered the work. He subsequently recorded them for the Decca label. Later versions are not that plentiful. Those of Antoine Pierlot are therefore quite welcome. Suite no. 1 is made up of six pieces, grouped in pairs, each one preceded by a prelude, called Canto. This division offers an astonishing coherence to the entirety of the work, whose modes follow one another in a drama of torment and evoke, at times, the atmosphere present in the opera A Midsummer Nights’ Dream. The Second Suite, in five movements, draws its inspiration from the baroque period, and favours a more austere style. It culminates in a vast Chaconne built on 12 variations, a grandiose summation of a visionary work. In it, Britten handles various modes and moods, indeed even humour, and exploits all of the instrument’s possibilities: repetitive figures and constant changes in tempo combine into a sort of free improvisation. The formidable talent of the dedicatee is not irrelevant to this abundance of difficulties. Suite no. 3, which presents nine linked sections, is intended to be an homage to the Russian homeland of his great cellist friend, for it borrows from popular songs previously harmonized by Tchaikovsky and from a funeral melody drawn from Slavic liturgy. This lengthy interior song, alternating between tempos of march, barcarolle and fugue, leads to two brief astonishing episodes: “Recitativo : fantastico “ and “Molto perpetuo”, opening up to a final Passacaglia, which is also highly developed – another homage to the baroque form. Also discernable here is a discreet nod to Shostakovich. Antoine Pierlot belongs to that prolific young generation of talented French cellists whose interpretations light up the repertory. His intense interpretations are full of sincerity: a sense of the composer’s modern polyphony, a controlled power, a richness of sound. The live recording at the Reims Festival in July 2012 is faithful and true.
A tireless and brilliant performer, Mstislav Rostropovitch has elicited a number of major scores for his instrument, including the three superb Suites for solo Cello by Benjamin Britten, composed between 1964 and 1971. These works are as much a token of friendship as they are an homage to baroque musical forms and to Bach; they exploit in a highly playful (indeed diabolical) manner the tonal and polyphonic potential of the instrument in a succession of very inspired musical tableaux.
The cellist Antoine Pierlot, young but already very experienced, takes up the challenge of these pieces in an authoritative way in this live recording made under the auspices of the Flâneries Musicales de Reims. One immediately notices the perfect choice for the recording space which, thanks to its resonance, allows the music to express its harmonies without sinking into muddiness.
Of the three suites, the first possesses the clearest structure, which is based on a principle of alternation between lighter tunes and more solid pieces. Antoine Pierlot’s performance of them is a success. The listener follows with great interest the successive metamorphoses of the low-pitched Canto, while each miniature expresses its poetic sound universe in an ideal way. The fugue, the serenade or the march deliver grotesque accents which mask an underlying feeling of anguish expressed in the disconcerting monadic Lamento or The bumblebee. The suite finishes with a struggle between the theme of the Canto and an unsettling perpetual motif, a fascinating struggle leading to exhaustion, but whose outcome remains uncertain. This was our favorite part of the recording.
The Second Suite is more collected, and, one might add that its inspiration is a notch below the rest. Nevertheless, the Scherzo is memorable, its sudden mood swings allowing the cellist to display a wide range of expressive registers, between fury and quiet meditation, and, of course, there is the final chaconne. A veritable piece of bravura, both superb and formidable, this piece is completely animated by a tragic grandeur, which the performer (once again!) restores perfectly before the final cadence, a kind of thumbing of the nose in the manner of Till Eulenspiegel.
Finally, the Third Suite synthesizes to a certain extent the two preceding suites, since it picks up the fragmented structure of the first while concluding with a varying form, as does the second. The spirit of this suite is closer to that of the fantasy than it is to that of the suite, as is indicated in particular by the recitative passages, even though Britten maintains the work’s unity by referring to popular or to Russian liturgical themes which are particularly clear in the final Passacaglia. On the whole, this is not the most cheerful of works, but what music!
Fugue or chaconne mixed with marches, lyrical tirades and Russian motifs…The jewel for solo cello, written by Britten on a wager, sparkles under the bow of the French cellist Antoine Pierlot.
Benjamin Britten composed these suites under a threat. On the occasion of his being presented to the British royal family by the composer, Mstislav Rostropovitch had envisaged executing a curtsy as exuberant as it was incongruous. Horrified, Britten only managed to dissuade him by agreeing, through a contract signed on the table of a restaurant, to compose six suites for solo cello, modelled after those of Jean-Sebastian Bach. Due to his failing health, the composer of the War Requiem only managed to finish three, written between 1974 and 1971, and the Russian soloist, after premiering them, only had time to record the first two.
Together, these suites constitute one of the absolute peaks of the 20th century literature for solo cello. Benjamin Britten not only exploits, with great panache, austere Baroque forms – the fugue, chaconne, and passacaglia – which he blends with unexpected fantasies, such as military marches tinged with a Mahlerian irony. He also provides his patron, renowned for his virtuosity and his lyricism in the high regions of the instrument, with short opera monologues of an eloquence and a poignant theatricality: ”lamento” from the first suite, “declamato” from the second , “recitativo fantastico” from the third. This last piece, which quotes from popular Russian themes, salutes the tormented music of Shostakovich, whom Benjamin Britten admired.
At first intimidated by these powerful pages, the young French cellist Antoine Pierlot has become permeated with them to the point of being possessed by them – and of finding a warmth, a sonorous intoxication, and at times a solemn grandeur worthy of the late Slava. Made in Reims, once the city of coronations, this sovereign recording crowns a new prince of the bow.
Between the whispered confessions of Pärt and the ardent declarations of a passionate Slav, the Variations on a rococo theme for cello and orchestra by Tchaikovsky arrives at a synthesis. Its simple melodious theme offers the soloist the opportunity to shine, as much by the virtuosity required as by the texture of the sought-after sound. Antoine Pierlot has these two qualities in equal measure. Without pathos, he unrolls with a superb facility, the different aspects of this baroque theme, supported by the crystalline clarity of an orchestra under the baton of Frédéric Chaslin. After enormous applause, the young soloist performed, as an encore, a Serenade by Britten knitted together by pizzicati.
Didier Hemardinquer, L’Est Républicain
“His eyes closed, Antoine Pierlot drew his audience into different magical universes. After two of the six suites for solo cello by Bach played for us by Ophélie Gaillard during the Concerts promenades on Sunday the 5th, Antoine Pierlot proposed an entirely different vision in his performance of three others. Here the playing was full of contrasts – at times gentle, at others, more fleshy. The dances were well accentuated and the phrasing breathed. The rapid and cheerful movements followed tender and languorous laments.
Thus, the cellist sought to inhabit as much as possible the suites, bringing out the particularities of each movement flawlessly: the Irish side of the A major “gigue” in the sixth suite, or the more popular quality of the “courante” and the echoes of “Bourée no 1” from the fourth suite in E flat.
The instrument, as well, changed during the concert. Tender in the sarabandes, it became more raspy when the writing sounded less intellectual, as in the “gigue” from the first suite in G major. It even transformed itself into a hurdy-gurdy in the “second gavotte” from the Suite in D major.
Handling all of these colours and these illuminations to perfection, Antoine Pierlot drew us, his eyes closed, into different magical universes, peopled with villagers dancing joyfully and with poets crying over lost love, especially in the splendid sarabandes, like the one, gently emphasized, of the fourth suite.
Outside of the dances, the preludes were played with a remarkable sensitivity, in particularthe suite in E flat, whose growing tension led to a soft virtuoso cadenza in pianissimo, followed by tense chords seeming to emit a last interior cry before fading away.
Antoine Pierlot thus proposed a passionate and fully inhabited vision of these masterpieces by Bach. He admitted at the end of the concert that these were the works he played the most often: that much is understood and is certainly understandable.”
Raphaël ARNAULT for l’Union
“In Prades, a remarkable performance was delivered by Antoine Pierlot, the young winner of the Révélation Adami competition who plays with all his heart, his eyes closed.”
“Born to a family of musicians drawn to woodwind instruments (Philippe Pierlot is principal flute for the Orchestre National de France and Pierre Pierlot is to the oboe what Jean-Pierre Rampal is to the flute) this young cellist demonstrates in Bach’s Suite no. 4 a dynamism beyond compare and an astounding confidence in his playing, in the face of this monument of musical literature. Pablo Casals, who put these suites back in fashion, had waited twelve years to mature enough before delivering them in public. The options for interpretation associated with the “baroque movement” are used parcimoniously and with finesse: there is a refusal of any vibrato, and phrasing is firmly detached. The sound – despite the not very flattering acoustics of this auditorium upholstered in velvet – remains full and round, always the same.”
Maxime Kaprielian for ResMusica.com