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Major classical artists don’t get to the top of their profession by standing still. They are always learning fresh repertoire, conceiving imaginative projects and finding new collaborations. That’s the case for French cellist Gautier Capuçon.

Scheduled to return to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for concerts on April 25-27, Capuçon will join Danish guest conductor Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider in Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto, one of the most famous and often-played works for the combination. Although the cellist has performed chamber music with Szeps-Znaider, who is also a well-regarded violinist, this will be Capuçon’s first time working with him as a conductor. “This piece is so lyrical and so dramatic,” he said. “It’s all about singing and feeling and fire. It’s absolutely wonderfully written for the cello.”

Among his latest initiatives, the cellist teamed for the first time with violinist Lisa Batiashvili and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet for an 11-day, 10-city tour across Europe. The tour began Nov. 4 in the Konzert Theater in Coesfeld, Germany, and included stops in such prestigious venues as the Musikverein in Vienna, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and the Philharmonie in Paris. The threesome will perform at least one more concert this summer in Europe and then embark on a North American tour in late 2020.

In another venture, Capuçon has helped to premiere a highly unusual double concerto by Swiss-born composer Richard Dubugnon, who has been championed by noted violinist Janine Jansen, among others. It so happens that Dubugnon received commissions to write a piano concerto for Thibaudet and a cello concerto for Capuçon, and the two soloists cooked up the idea of melding them into one work. The two debuted the resulting composition in October with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and performed it again in November in Antwerp. More performances are set for later this year with the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne in Germany and L’Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France.

“When you commission a piece from a composer, obviously you like his music,” Capuçon said. “Of course, we really love Richard’s music, but until the premiere, you never know how the piece will end up. You know it’s going to be good, but once in a while you are lucky to get a great piece, and the genius happens. We’re very lucky that this piece is really outstanding — incredible spirit, great melodies. The last movement is quite rhythmical. It is reminiscent a little of Bernstein and this style of music. And the balance among the piano, cello and orchestra is really well done. We’re looking forward to going on with it.”

If all that wasn’t enough, the cellist released his latest recording in January on the Erato label: a group of works by Robert Schumann, including live performances of the composer’s Fantasiestücke for Violin, Cello and Piano in A Minor, Op. 88, with pianist Martha Argerich and violinist Renaud Capuçon (Gautier’s brother) and Violin Concerto with conductor Bernard Haitink and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. In all, the cellist’s catalog now consists of some three dozen chamber, orchestral and solo recordings.

Of his new disc, Capuçon told the Strad magazine, “Schumann’s musical universe is so complex, and those three pieces embody in miniature almost the whole gamut of emotions: humor, craziness, fire, doubt, tenderness — you can just about name any musical character and find it within those works. I think those layers correspond with my own development as a musician. I know the Fantasiestücke really touched me when I was younger but now they’re more linked to my personality and life experiences.”

 

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