Cellist Edgar Moreau started playing the cello when he was four years old, so as of this writing he has been playing the instrument for some sixteen years. Funny, because in his pictures he doesn't look much older than sixteen. No matter: He plays like someone who has been studying the cello for twice his lifetime. On the present disc, pianist Pierre-Yves Hodique accompanies Moreau, and he, too, appears quite young. Again, don't let appearances fool you; these two fellows make an excellent team.
At fifteen years of age, Moreau won the Young Soloist Prize at the Rostropovich Competition; then at seventeen he won second prize at the International Tchaikovsky Competition. He signed an exclusive contract with Erato/Warner Classics, and for this debut album (the title apparently inspired by modern computer usage, as in "Press the PLAY button"), Moreau explains that he "wanted a succession of genre pieces since they are also an integral part of the cello repertoire." He goes on to say that he "wanted to record a selection of them ranging from vocal transcription to virtuoso encore. With my faithful chamber music partner Pierre-Yves Hodique, we have often had fun punctuating our concerts and recitals with some of these pieces, and so it seemed obvious to us to feature these compositions that are always appreciated by the audience." In other words, the program comprises mainly brief, entertaining showpieces meant to highlight the talents of musicians. The beloved British conductor Sir Thomas Beecham might have called these selections bon-bons.
As it is, the program works pretty well. There is nothing here long enough to tax the patience of non or only mildly interested classical music listeners; the performers present the pieces in sterling interpretations; and Erato provide them pretty good sound. It's a winning combination, even if so many (seventeen tracks) short works (nothing over five or ten minutes each) may seem a bit spread out shotgun style for dedicated classical fans.
I think the main thing about all the performances on the disc is that Moreau and Hodique appear to be having a good time playing them. Not only are both artists meticulous virtuosos, they seem to love the music they're playing and love playing it together. Their musical partnership yields energetic, pleasurable, and technically satisfying results, the two performers continuously engaging in friendly instrumental dialogue and obvious good humor, even in the overtly sentimental tunes. The album is a good deal of fun.
And so it goes. Elgar's Salut d'amour sounds sweetly beguiling in Moreau's hands; Faure's Elegie is properly sad and wistful; Poulenc's Les Chemins de l'amour has all the qualities of a popular song in waltz time; Tchaikovsky's Valse sentimentale is satisfactorily melancholic; Popper's "Dance of the Elves" has a Mendelssohnian sparkle; Schubert's Ave Maria is as melodic as you'll hear; and the duo go out in style with Chopin's Introduction et Polonaise brillante. Then there are all the good things in between these numbers. The disc is a treat.
For the home listener, the question of how well Mr. Moreau might handle a longer, more-serious piece of music--a concerto or a sonata, for example--remains unanswered. But one thing is sure from listening to this album of short favorites: the man plays a mean cello.
Producers Alain Lanceron and Nicolas Bartholomee and mastering engineer Maximilien Ciup recorded the music at Salle Colonne, Paris, Eglise protestante Saint-Pierre in September 2013. It's one of the best-sounding discs I've heard from Erato. The two instrumentalists appear well positioned between the speakers. Both instruments are clear and detailed. Dynamic range, impact, and transient response are all suitable for the occasion. Moreover, air, bloom, room resonance, and dimensionality sound realistic enough to give the presentation an overall lifelike feeling. Nicely done, Erato.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here: