Pre-Summit Musical Treats in a Bavarian Cultural Hideaway

GermanyGermany Schumann, Brahms, Franck, Rachmaninov: Gautier Capuçon (cello) & Gülru Ensari (piano), Schloss Elmau, Bavaria, 23.3.2015 (MC)

Gautier Capuçon, photo © Gregory Batardon
Gautier Capuçon, photo © Gregory Batardon

Schumann: Fantasiestücke, Op. 73
Brahms: Cello Sonata No. 1, Op. 38
Franck: Violin Sonata (arranged Jules Delsart for cello and piano)
Rachmaninov: Vocalise

This recital containing some of the finest playing I have heard for some time was an unexpected pleasure as it wasn’t on my itinerary before arriving in Bavaria. Tucked away in the Bavarian Alps, overlooked by the Wetterstein Mountains and close to Richard Strauss’s famous Garmisch home is the magnificent Schloss Elmau in which very soon Heads of State and Government will gather for the important G7 Summit 2015.

Very much the ‘Luxury Spa, Retreat & Cultural Hideaway’ as described in its brochure, amongst its broad range of cultural programmes Schloss Elmau holds an exclusive series of concerts/recitals for its guests by performers who read like a ‘Who’s Who’ of the classical music world – such as Gidon Kremer, Janine Jansen, Ian Bostridge, Renaud Capuçon, Martha Argerich, Christian Gerhaher, Sol Gabetta, Sabine Meyer, Andreas Scholl, Mitsuko Uchida, Miloš Karadaglić , Mischa Maisky et al.

As personal guests of Dr. Silke Zimmermann, cultural director at Schloss Elmau, my party was delighted to stay for the private recital in the concert hall given by renowned French cellist Gautier Capuçon accompanied by Turkish born pianist Gülru Ensari. With many of the Schloss Elmau guests who wish to attend perhaps not being classical music aficionados the programme was appropriately agreeable rather than aurally challenging consisting of the better known works of the repertoire, but it was none the worse for that. Opening the programme was Schumann’s three Fantasiestücke buoyantly played by Capuçon and Ensari displaying all the assurance required to draw the listener into the magical sound world of this arch-Romantic composer. In the Brahms Cello Sonata No. 1, a keystone of the genre, it soon became clear that the duo were in their element with the abruptly expressive contrasts of the E minor score. I especially relished the playing of the central Allegretto quasi Menuetto with the duo creating a particular intimacy, and the excitement of the Finale was brilliantly executed. A masterwork and much loved in the recital hall Franck’s Violin Sonata was given in the excellent arrangement for cello and piano by Jules Delsart. It needs players of exceptional ability to bring off the high romantic ardour of the Sonata successfully and Capuçon and Ensari’s mastery of their respective instruments was a joy to behold. This lucid interpretation was fresh and invigorating bringing the work to life with a particularly strong involvement evident in the turbulent writing of the Allegro.

Throughout the recital Gülru Ensari proved to be the perfect collaborative partner for Capuçon. The gleaming polish of Capuçon’s Matteo Goffriller (1701) was matched by the instrument’s dark mellow tone, as meltingly beautiful as I am ever likely to hear. If I was ever in any doubt before the recital I believe Gautier Capuçon to be the finest cellist on the world stage today. For the encore the duo played an enchanting rendition of the Rachmaninov Vocalise, a fitting end for a quite marvellous evening at Schloss Elmau.

Michael Cookson