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Catherine Milligan
Stringendo, December 2007

German cellist Maria Kliegel has an exceptionally wide repertoire, and has recorded extensively for Naxos. Her recordings are always impressive for their technical command, tonal beauty and musical communication. The contribution that Saint-Saëns (1835–1921) made to the cello repertoire is indeed considerable: from his concerti to the numerous salon pieces such as the memorable Allegro Appassionato and the favourite Swan, as well as these 3 chamber works. Kleigel’s performance of the sonatas proves that they are somewhat underrated works. The cello sonatas are typical of the romantic style, and reminiscent of the Mendelssohn sonatas for the clarity of textures and attractive melodies. These works are meant to delight rather than shock. …Kliegel and Thiollier give a powerful and unrestrained rendition…This is a fine CD recording, with a well balanced, rounded sound, and first-rate performances. The accompanying booklet is very informative.

Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, July 2007

Maria Kliegel can be heard in a wide range of repertoire that she has recorded for Naxos; with over 50 entries in their catalog, she is perhaps the company’s leading “stable” cellist, …she is a fantastic player with solid technique, spot-on intonation, and robust tone, which she projects with a great deal of confidence and authority. If her delivery is not quite as smooth and refined as that of the aforementioned Jamie Walton, my sense is that she wants us to perceive Saint-Saëns as both more serious and more substantive than he is often taken to be.

François-Joël Thiollier has also recorded extensively for Naxos, having made a specialty of the French piano repertoire. His partnering with Kliegel is a natural. For the excellent performances, fine sound, budget price, and smart programming, I’m inclined to call this disc indispensable for lovers of chamber music for cello and piano. © 2007 Fanfare Read complete review

D Moore
American Record Guide, June 2007

"Kliegel has a fine technique and a straightforward attitude towards music-making. The dramatic First Sonata, written during a sad period in the composer's life and with drama to match his situation, is played with real enthusiasm and energy. The more introspective Second Sonata is perhaps less immediately effective in Kliegel's hands but not to be ignored, nevertheless. But if you don't have the Suite, Op. 16, this is a good place to go for it, unless you would prefer it with orchestra--then you need her earlier Naxos recording. The Suite is a beauty, either way."

Joanne Talbot
The Strad, May 2007

Saint-Säens is very much the casino player of composers. Sometimes he is on a luck streak and his formidable compositional technique is coupled with inspired and delightful invention. At other times, however, the ideas can be less convincing and their development somewhat laboured.

These two cello sonatas reflect this unevenness though there are sumptuous moments in the Romance of the First Sonata and in the Scherzo con variazoni from the Second Sonata which provides a severe technical challenge for even the most seasoned virtuoso pianist. Maria Kliegel works hard to sell these works and barring some suspect intonation for her octaves in the finale of the Suite, delivers them with excellent technical accomplishment and sensitive musicality.

Kliegel's partnership with François-Joë Thiollier is impressive -- the pianist has the necessary lightness of touch to achieve a good balance with the cello in the barnstorming finale and creates a sparkling impact in the Second Sonata's Scherzo. Furthermore both artists are particularly successful in projecting the delights of the Suite, its haunting 'Sérénade' deserving to be an encore piece in its own right. At the same time, there is scope for even more imagination in the colouring of phrases, although this aspect is not helped by a rather muffled recording.

Certainly Isserlis and Devoyon more effectively conjure the sense of fantastic theatre in their recordings of the sonatas for BMG. It is, however, useful to have all these works on one CD -- a valuable compendium of Saint-Saëns's more extended works for cello and piano.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2007

The two Saint-Saens cello sonatas float around the periphery of the repertoire, recordings keeping them more in mind than do concert performances. To succeed they require the outgoing style of playing that comes from Maria Kleigel, her recording of the two cello concertos some years ago remaining among my top recommendations. The composer takes the sonatas through every mode that had garnered success for him with the opening movements furnished with grand gestures, the slow movements smooth and elegant, while the finales bubble with vitality. The Second uses a four-movement structure with a very powerful scherzo coming second. The missing ingredient in both works is the composer's usual ability to fashion instantly memorable melodies, the more popular First having the benefit of a show of virtuosity for the pianist in the final. It is a gift Francois-Joel Thiollier accepts with sheer agility as he dives around the keyboard. Kliegel has already recorded the Suite in an orchestral garb, the instrumental sounds at least adding colours to the baron accompaniment. It does make up a complete Saint-Saens cello and piano disc, though that role is about the measure of its intrinsic value. Throughout Kleigel plays with passion, throwing aside technical challenges, though most of those are presented to Thiollier. With a lack of good alternative recordings that couple the sonatas, this is an automatic first choice.

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