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(b 1925 )

Cello-playing ran strongly in Gérard Hekking’s family: his cousins André and Anton Hekking were both equally notable players and it was his Dutch-born father, Charles Hekking – a successful touring soloist himself – who first taught Gérard, as well as instructing André in Bordeaux. Gérard then entered the Paris Conservatoire under Jules Delsart, a noted pedagogue of the Franco-Belgian tradition. Hekking’s solo career, which seems to have begun in the early 1900s, saw him appear throughout Europe and in Russia. During World War I he served in the French army, but resumed performing activities afterwards. In the 1920s he took part (with Alfred Cortot) in premieres of Fauré’s C minor Piano Quintet and Cello Sonata No. 2 in Paris (André Hekking having given the premiere of the Sonata No. 1) and made solo tours.

Hekking taught at the Paris Conservatoire from 1927 until the end of his life, his pupils including Paul Tortelier and Maurice Gendron. In his teaching he favoured the French style that encouraged looseness in both the left wrist and the bowing arm (in contrast to the German tradition taught by Klengel, Becker et al. in Leipzig and Berlin) and also embraced rhythmic freedom. This was something that Tortelier admired and learnt from him, likening him to Casals in his elastic approach to Bach’s solo suites, and to the Dutch painter Brueghel in his colourful and vigorous tonal palette.

Few recordings of Hekking are available from which to judge his approach to style. His own Villageoise, recorded in 1929, is clear-cut and straightforward, with a relatively tight, continuous vibrato, a clean, luminescent tone and relatively few portamenti, suggesting a remarkably modern sense of stylistic restraint. This is not especially compelling playing, but it does testify to a very firm grasp of both musical taste and executive skill from a key figure in the development of the cello’s solo role.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)

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