July 22, 2018

Dancing with a pedigreed cello at Stratford Summer Music

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John Terauds, Special to the Toronto Star

Iffy weather meant there were no fireworks to open the annual Stratford Summer Music Festival last Tuesday, but the first week’s star guest more than made up for it with musical magic.

Québec cellist Stéphane Tétreault is not particularly well-known in Ontario yet, but the 25-year-old has impressed all the right people, and is starting to make a mark internationally.

On Friday afternoon, he wowed a teatime audience at the Bruce Hotel with assured and musical excerpts from J.S. Bach’s first three Suites for Solo Cello as well as a piece by Québec bandoneonist-composer Denis Plante.

Tétreault has tremendous technique, making his playing seem effortless. His approach is notable for the thinking that has gone into shaping musical lines and giving the music momentum.

The iconic Bach Suites demand that a cellist spend hundreds of hours making the music speak coherently. Every artist emerges with their unique way of performing the pieces. Tétreault’s approach was a compelling mix of Romanticism leavened by the rhythmic vitality more common in period-performance practice.

Above all, this music is supposed to dance, and Tétreault made the experience sensual. We can only hope that he will decide to present all six Suites either live or in a recording one day soon.

Few cellists in the world have the good fortune to work with as glorious a partner as Tétreault’s: a Stradivarius made in 1707 known as “Countess of Stainlein, Ex-Paganini.” Stradivari only made 60-odd cellos, and this one’s sound is jaw-droppingly full. Unlike some Old Master cellos, its voice is evenly resonant and rich across its whole range.

Hearing Tétrault work his musical magic on this $6 million (U.S.) instrument on indefinite loan from Québec’s Desmarais family was alone worth the drive from Toronto.

Read on the Toronto Star