Maurice Gendron ∙ Volume 2

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MAURICE GENDRON plays Brahms, Prokofiev and Fauré

1-3. Brahms: Double Concerto in A minor, Op. 102 [31:02]
I. Allegro [15:22]
II. Andante [07:31]
III. Vivace non troppo [08:08]
Recorded ∙ 17 January 1956 ∙ Stuttgart ∙ Villa Berg ∙ Süddeutscher Rundfunk ∙ Radio Studio Recording
Arthur Grumiaux ∙ violin
Maurice Gendron ∙ cello
Südfunk-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart
Hans Müller-Kray ∙ conductor

4-6. Prokofiev: Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 58 [30:39]
I. Andante [05:54]
II. Allegro giusto [11:32]
III. Allegro [13:13]
Recorded ∙ 23 February 1956 ∙ Frankfurt ∙ Raum 1/B ∙ Hessischer Rundfunk ∙ Radio Studio Recording
Maurice Gendron ∙ cello
Sinfonie-Orchester des Hessischen Rundfunks
Otto Matzerath ∙ conductor

7. Fauré: Elégie, Op. 24 [07:21]
Recorded ∙ 26 October 1962 ∙ Frankfurt ∙ Raum 1/B ∙ Hessischer Rundfunk ∙ Radio Studio Recording
Maurice Gendron ∙ cello
Sinfonie-Orchester des Hessischen Rundfunks
Sixten Ehrling ∙ conductor

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Maurice Gendron was born in Nice on December 26, 1920. His father separated from his mother when the little boy was three month old. Gendron grew up in a poor household with his mother and grandmother. He could read music at the age of three and began violin lessons at four with his mother, a professional player in the silent cinema, but he did not get on with the instrument and in 1925 he changed to a quarter-sized cello specially made for him. His first teacher on the cello was Stéphane Odéro in Cannes. His mother and Odéro took him to hear the cellist Emanuel Feuermann playing at the Casino municipal. The boy was moved and met Feuermann and henceforth regarded Feuermann as his idol “the greatest cellist”, played for him but could not afford to travel for lessons with him.

He entered the Nice Conservatoire to study with Jean Mangot at twelve and received the first prize in 1935. He gave his first performance playing the Saint-Saëns cello concerto with an amateur orchestra under Mangot. His mother had lost her job with the advent of the sound movies and he was forced to leave the Conservatoire to play at weddings and for dancing in order to help the family finances. In 1937, with the help of his teacher Jean Mangot, who gave him a rail ticket and 1,000 francs, he entered the Paris Conservatoire, in Gérard Hekking’s class, where he received the first prize in 1938. When Gendron was living in Paris, he became acquainted with many artists and composers in that city such as Francis Poulenc, Nadia Boulanger, Dinu Lipatti, Georges Auric and the composer and pianist Jean Françaix (1912-1997). They became close friends and gave many recitals together after the postwar period. At the outbreak of war he was so poor and undernourished that he was found unfit for army service. In 1942, he joined the cello section of the Symphonic Orchestra of Paris, and played under the batons of Kabasta, Karajan, Rosbaud, Schuricht and Mengelberg. On January 16, 1944, he replaced Gaspar Cassadò in the Dvořák cello concerto under Willem Mengelberg.

His international career began in the postwar period on 2 December 1945 in London, where he made his solo debut in Wigmore Hall. He performed sonatas by Faure and Debussy with Benjamin Britten on piano. Eight days later he appeared at one of Myra Hess’s National Gallery Concerts with Britten and Peter Pears, performing Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata and Fauré’s Second Sonata. His reputation with the wider London public was sealed when he gave the first Western performance of Prokofiev’s Cello Concerto, Op.58, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Walter Susskind. “That’s how I began my career,” he recalled. “No one wanted to hear Maurice Gendron, but they all wanted to hear Prokofiev!” He was given exclusive rights to the concerto for three years and it made his name. He played the Brahms’s Double concerto with violinist Arthur Grumiaux and the Vienna Symphony under Franz Litschauer in his debut performance in Vienna on 3 March 1949.

For his New York debut on January 21, 1958, he chose a memorial concert for Feuermann, playing the Haydn cello concerto in D major, the Dvorák cello concerto and Bloch’s Schelomo with the National Orchestral Association under Léon Barzin. He returned to play the Schumann Cello Concerto with the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein the following year, three times between 5 and 7 February 1959. Between 1959 and 1967, he performed in the United States frequently, both as a soloist and in collaboration with Hephzibah and Yehudi Menuhin and the pianist Philippe Entremont.

His friendship with Britten and Pears continued and he appeared at the first Aldeburgh Festival in 1948; but Britten’s offer to write a work for him was withdrawn, to Gendron’s chagrin, when the composer formed a close artistic relationship with Rostropovich. Even so Gendron played at the festival in 1963 with Britten and Menuhin. Gendron gave another recital with Britten that included the Arpeggione sonata. After this concerts Britten thanked Gendron in a letter of 5 July 1963: “We were all immensely grateful to you for coming to the festival, at such short notice, and for playing so magnificently. Your playing created quite a sensation, as you noticed, and it was for me personally a great pleasure to do the Sonata with you. I thought you played it wonderfully”.

He had his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic on 8 April 1965, performing the Haydn cello concerto in D major under Joseph Keilberth. At the humanitarian concert for Unesco at Salle Pleyel in Paris on 27 January 1976, he played compositions by Mozart such as:

• Mozart’s Quartet in F Major, KV.370 with Maurice Bourgue (oboe), Yehudi Menuhin (violin) and Luigi Bianco (viola)
• Mozart’s Andantino, KV.374 with Hephzibah Menuhin (piano)
• Mozart’s Piano Quartet in G Major, KV.478 with Yehudi Menuhin (violin), Hephzibah Menuhin (piano) and Luigi Bianco (viola)
• Mozart’s Quartet for flute strings in D Major, KV.285 with Michel Debost (flute), Yehudi Menuhin (violin) and Luigi Bianco (viola)

Gendron published a number of transcriptions and was a superb deviser of cadenzas for classical concertos such as those by Haydn. He taught at the State High School in Saarbrücken from 1954-1970, at the Paris Conservatoire from 1970 until his retirement in 1986, and he was a cello professor at Yehudi Menuhin School (YMS) in Cobham, Surrey, from 1968 to 1977, later called of being a sadistic teacher who quizzed his pupils about their sexual habits and regularly subjected them to humiliation. France also awarded him two high civilian honours: officer of the Legion of Honour and the National Order of Merit.

Gendron died of cancer of the esophagus on 20 August 1990 at the riverside home in Grez-sur-Loing where he and his wife, a former violinist, had lived for years surrounded by the paintings and drawings given to Gendron by his artist friends.

Source: Gendron interviewed by Jacques Chancel, 13 January 1982 in Paris, Radio program Radioscopie.

Notes by Michael Waiblinger, © 2014

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Article number: MC 3011
UPC barcode: 791154054178
Recording dates: 1956-1962
Release date: March 2015
Total timing: 69:03

Producer and Audio Restoration: Lynn Ludwig
Booklet Notes: Michael Waiblinger
Design: Alessia Issara
Photographs: Boris Lipnitzki
With special thanks to Ulrich Karla
From the Original Masters ∙ © 2015 Meloclassic