A Gal Named Sol
The great Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich argued that the cello is a masculine instrument because of its lower-pitched voice. But in her fantastically successful debut recital in San Francisco last evening, a gal named Sol—the Argentinean born Sol Gabetta-- showed that in the right hands the cello can be as feminine as the higher pitched violin and flute.
Ms. Gabetta, who is of Russian-French ancestry and in her mid-30’s, does not go for the big heroic sound, choosing instead to communicate her vivacity, romantic intensity and playfulness through warmer, softer tones.
I suspect she is more at home in the quintessentially romantic Schumann Cello Concerto than the more heroic Dvorak (Last summer I was lucky enough to hear her play the Schumann with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra at the Lucerne Festival and she was a great success.)
Just the way Ms. Gabetta handles and manipulates her instrument exudes an unmistakable femininity. I sat transfixed watching her elegant arms maneuver her cello as she coaxed the most gorgeous sounds out of its strings with her long flexible fingers.
Indeed, I was so riveted I hardly noticed her excellent colleague, the pianist Alessio Bax, who seemed more than willing to take a back seat to Ms. Gabetta’s unbounded artistry on this occasion.
How fortunate that Ms Gabetta happens upon the scene just at a time when there is a shortage of top rank cellists.
We also are fortunate for organizations like San Francisco Performances who present wonderful concerts like last evening’s despite a public whose average age appears to be rapidly rising with each passing year. Why are the young people not coming to great concerts like this?
That Ms. Gabetta is a fabulous Schumann player came through clearly in the first piece of the evening, Schumann’s Fantasiestucke, Opus 73-- which was followed by a marvelous account the Brahms Sonata for Cello and Piano in E minor and, after intermission, two pieces by Prokofiev, the Adagio from Cinderella and the Sonata for Cello and Piano in C Major (written for the young Rostropovich).
The wisely-chosen program fit hand in glove with Ms. Gabetta’s strengths. Her Brahms had romantic urgency in the first movement, playfulness in the second and grandeur in the third. Perfect!
The Prokofiev was all over the place, darting here and there, making unexpected stops and starts and just keeping everyone including the audience on its toes. It was a great ride and no one seemed to be enjoying it more than Ms. Gabetta. The Adagio from Cinderella was a lyrical delight.
What a joy it is to hear a young immensely talented player on the way up! And what a shame so few of her contemporaries were on hand to see and hear this terrific performance.