Boëllmann, Fauré, Lalo & Saint-Saëns: French Cello / Coppey, Nelson, Strasbourg PO

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The present album is a multifaceted homage to French cello music, and features heavyweights of French cello literature, recorded by one of today's leading cellists: from Camille Saint-Saëns' "The Swan," perhaps the most famous cello solo ever, to Léon Boëllmann's Variations symphoniques, combining playful wit with highly original form, contrasted by the sense of tragedy in Gabriel Fauré's Élégie. The two concertos by Saint-Saëns and Lalo represent weighty warhorses of the French cello repertoire which require not only technical mastery but, above all, musical penetration in order to highlight their subtleties. As an advocate of the ars gallica movement, Saint-Saëns included in his first cello concerto several allusions to the French baroque tradition, but also showed commitment to French clarity, turning his back on any bombast which was considered "Teutonic". Lalo's cello concerto, on the other hand, is highly expressive, energetic and very romantic, with the solo cello almost depicting the literary heroes of the time who populated the novels of Balzac, Hugo and Dumas père and fils.


A distinguished French cellist and a French orchestra present a fine programme which celebrates the important role of the cello in late 19th century France. This is a shrewd selection: the works by Saint-Saëns and Fauré are familiar, that by Lalo less so, and (outside the organ loft) the music of Léon Boëllmann remains obscure.

I was very glad to discover Boëllmann’s concertante work, as I suspect will be many music lovers. Its thirteen minutes contain plenty of rewarding music, and no note-spinning. The title pays homage to Franck’s piece for piano and orchestra, and it sounds to me almost in the same class as that work.

Is there a finer cello concerto than Saint-Saëns’s A minor? Maybe, but few that are over in less than twenty minutes and offer such opportunities for a skilled cellist. The soloist has a showcase for all the instrument can offer, including becoming a chamber musician, or one who is primus inter pares. Coppey’s playing is impressive. In particular, there is a rapturous quality to his playing of the lyrical music in both of this work’s outer movements. The disc inevitably [also] offers Saint-Saëns’s The Swan. This perhaps best known of all cello works is played here in Paul Vidal’s arrangement for cello and chamber orchestra, and it casts the usual serene spell.

Another arrangement for cello and orchestra, this time by the composer, is Fauré’s noble Élégie, originally a fragment of an abandoned cello and piano sonata. Coppey gives it a spontaneous-sounding account, at times almost improvisatory in feeling. The cellist’s tone and line are deployed in the service of a haunting interpretation, aided by touching flute and oboe contributions from the Strasbourg players under John Nelson, attentive collaborators throughout.

Lalo is best known for a single work, his Symphonie espagnole. His Cello Concerto could well stand alongside it if it received more performances as good as this one. The stormy opening is stirring, and the lyrical passages silken[.]

-- MusicWeb International

Product Description:

  • Release Date: April 15, 2022

  • Catalog Number: AUD97802

  • UPC: 4022143978028

  • Label: Audite

  • Period: Romantic

  • Composer: Leon Boellmann, Gabriel Faure, Camille Saint-Saens, Edouard Lalo

  • Conductor: John Nelson

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Philharmonic Orchestra of Strasbourg

  • Performer: Marc Coppey


  1. Variations symphoniques, Op. 23: I. Moderato maestoso - Andantino (version for cello and orchestra)

    Composer: Léon Boëllmann

    Ensemble: Philharmonic Orchestra of Strasbourg

    Performer: Marc Coppey

    Conductor: John Nelson

  2. Cello Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 33

    Composer: Camille Saint-Saëns

    Ensemble: Philharmonic Orchestra of Strasbourg

    Performer: Marc Coppey

    Conductor: John Nelson

  3. Élégie, Op. 24: Molto adagio (version for cello and orchestra)

    Composer: Gabriel Fauré

    Ensemble: Philharmonic Orchestra of Strasbourg

    Performer: Marc Coppey

    Conductor: John Nelson

  4. Cello Concerto in D Minor

    Composer: Édouard Lalo

    Ensemble: Philharmonic Orchestra of Strasbourg

    Performer: Marc Coppey

    Conductor: John Nelson