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« Prog-Rock Linkage by Barry Wood | Main | Minor (League) Musings »

February 12, 2008

Nikos on Deletaille

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Barry Wood isn't the only person who has been listening to music and searching YouTube for music vids recently. Nikos Salingaros has been making some finds too.




By Nikos A. Salingaros

Just as I was trying to decide which one of two recent recordings of the Bach Suites for unaccompanied cello to buy -- by Steven Isserlis (Britain) or by Jean-Guihen Queyras (France) -- out of the blue I discovered the brilliant young Belgian cellist Nicolas Deletaille. So, naturally I bought his recording (aussi parce que ma femme est belge)! Geographically, this choice makes perfect sense, since Belgium is half-way between Britain and France ...

Deletaille records on the small Contréclisse label in Belgium. Doubtlessly, these are available in CD stores in Europe, but here in the US we are fortunate that Deletaille's recordings are distributed by CD Baby. I recommend that readers not wait to read the rest of this review, but immediately order the two available double CD sets: the Bach Cello Suites and the Beethoven Cello Sonatas.

There is something profoundly correct about Deletaille's playing -- emotional intensity, virtuosity, and perfection without ever becoming either mechanical or introverted. Total concentration in the service of the music itself and the composer. You do have to be careful in these days of self-indulgent virtuosos, or even worse, those "modern" interpretations that sap all the life out of the notes in a misguided attempt at "virtuosic impartiality". None of that here -- it's just a pure pleasure to hear someone playing for the sheer joy of playing!

Deletaille's Bach CD came out in 2006, and his Beethoven CD, accompanied by the excellent pianist Jean-Michel Dayez, in 2007. The Bach suites I rate with the best ever interpreters: Casals, Rostropovich, Fournier, etc. His Beethoven sonatas are exquisite, again ranking with the classic recordings by Casals/Serkin, Rostropovich/Richter, and Fournier/Gulda.

The only quibble I have is that the great Fugue that concludes Sonata No. 5 (Opus 102 No. 2) is not as deliberately paced as the interpretation of Fournier/Gulda, presented in this new recording as a very different though equally correct interpretation. But Deletaille/Dayez make it work within the context of their own vision of the whole sonata.

Still, I would consider this a compliment rather than a criticism to be compared to Pierre Fournier and Friedrich Gulda. Deletaille's Bach is fast-paced, but does not sound fast. Incredible virtuosity that presents the music at a speed that seems just right. Only when I compared his timings to other favorite recordings I realized that this is a great technical feat. Note that Deletaille uses a "Violoncello Piccolo" built in Belgium in 2002 for the Sixth suite -- attention to the music and the composer's intentions (which are here unclear!). Bach's Sixth suite is always a problem to perform since Bach did not write it for a normal cello.

View and hear Nicolas Deletaille playing the Prelude from Bach's Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 5 in c minor BWV 1011 here or here.

The sound of both recordings is simply superb. These CDs are crystal clear, with perfect transparancy, and excellent sound stage and detailing. The cello/piano CDs present an excellent balance between the two instruments. Altogether, the quality of the recorded sound is state-of-the-art, enabling the listener to enjoy the instrumental timbres, the performers, and the music without any technical distractions or limitations.

A note on a forthcoming recording, and some interesting background. Franz Schubert wrote the beautiful "Arpeggione Sonata" for this strange (now extinct) instrument with a piano, but it is always played on a cello. Well, Nicolas Deletaille found an instrument maker in Belgium to make a new Arpeggione for him, and recorded this sonata with the legendary Austrian pianist Paul Badura-Skoda in 2007. That CD will also include Schubert's monumental string quintet, where Deletaille is joined by the French string quartet Quatuor Rosamonde.

Since Deletaille went to all the trouble to make an Arpeggione just to play the sonata with authentic instruments, Badura-Skoda also obliges by using a piano from Schubert's time. (Deletaille plays the Schubert cello quintet with a normal cello, however, since it was written that way). I can't wait to get this CD! Here is a link to that recording -- I'm not sure where one is able to buy it in the US once it is released, but it should become available sometime in 2008.

Since I'm on the topic and alerting the public to excellent recordings on small labels, let me mention that I wouldn't be without the recording of the Bach Cello Suites by Vito Paternoster (1998), available on the Musicaimmagine label in Europe, and from in the US.


Many thanks to Nikos, who I'm hoping will let us know about all his arts discoveries.

A reminder that Nikos is in the midst of delivering a fab online lecture series about the mathematical (and human) bases of architecture. Catch up with it by going here, and picking a lecture to watch and listen to. Some time ago, Nikos gave 2Blowhards a long and fascinating interview. If you haven't done so already, I encourage you to give it a read. Go to the top of the blog and click on the "Interviews" button -- you'll have quick access to all five parts.

Nicolas Deletaille's MySpace page is here.



posted by Michael at February 12, 2008


Vito Paternoster is the coolest name I've ever heard. I'm going to change my name to that, just to hear people say it when they call to me.

Posted by: PatrickH on February 12, 2008 2:49 PM

Thanks for posting this, Michael. I headed straight for eMusic and was delighted to see they have his Beethoven 5 cello sonatas. I was also amused to see Beethoven classified as Genre: Soundtracks/Other; Styles: Other Environmental. Hoodathunk?

Posted by: Whisky Prajer on February 13, 2008 10:12 AM

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