Classical CD Reviews
R. STRAUSS: Romance in F Major; Cello Sonata in F Major, Op. 6; REGER: Cello Sonata in G Minor, Op. 28; Petite Romance in D Major, Op. 79, No. 2 – Emmanuelle Bertrand, cello/ Pascal Amoyel, piano – Harmonia mundi
Published on February 17, 2006
Two young musicians collaborate for some resonant music-making in this well recorded (courtesy Martin Sauer) disc: happily, it is not in your run-of-the-mill cello fare. The 1883 Romance by Richard Strauss proved a popular piece in his own time: originally scored for cello an orchestra, the composer soon had to make a piano transcription of the orchestra part for home consumption. A lovely, broad Andante cantabile, it makes a perfect vehicle for Ms. Bertrand’s sumptuous tone. The F Major Cello Sonata begins with a brilliant fanfare, then the cello takes a Mendelssohnian turn as a gentle impulse provides a foil to the heroic, tone-poem splashes of color. We can hear traces of Mendelssohn’s D Minor and C Minor piano trios. But the energy and invention do not merely ape existing models; even the four-part counterpoint near the end of the movement transcends academic application.
The piano part provides occasional chorale riffs and leftovers from the Beethoven impulses in his Op. 5 Piano Sonata. Mendelssohn guides the procession of the Andante ma non troppo as well, although the harmonic movement first had me guessing at Schumann’s Piano Quintet. The movement soon becomes a song without words which testifies to Strauss’ gift for melody. The Allegro vivo last movement demands all kinds of wicked slides and rests from Bertrand, which she negotiates with frothy elan. The playful aspects of the writing, the harmonic wit which will become manifest in Till Eulenspiegel, is already evident here. Great balances between the respective sonorities of Bertrand and Amoyel.
Max Reger (1873-1916) suffers a tendency to be classified as a poor man’s Brahms clone. The virtues of his G Minor Cello Sonata, however, became apparent to me through a long-deleted Musical Heritage Society LP with Ludwig Hoelscher (which warrants restoration, oh Bridge Records, et al). A surging, agitated passion permeates the work, investing its considerable melodic tissue and uneasy harmony with a seductive charm. The broken chords and leaps hint at the later F Minor Piano Concerto and, inevitably, Brahms. In the midst of the palpitations of the Prestissimo assai, Bertrand has a lovely melodic line that should redeem Reger’s repute for many auditors. The harmonic movement is not far from Shostakovich. Follows a tender Intermezzo, again shades of Schumann and Brahms.
An aggressive Poco agitato interrupts the melancholy meditation.
The writing is close to the slow movement of the Brahms G Major Violin Sonata. The cello does enjoy some lovely shifts of timbre and dynamics, a sweet pianissimo with Bertrand is irresistible. The easy gait of the finale, Allegretto con grazia, suggests the Brahms B Major Trio, the piano part alluding to another Brahms violin sonata, the Op. 100. Still, the lilting cello and cascading piano make for happy listening. The little Romanze, an Andante – un poco con moto – proves a seamless extension of the Sonata, a limpid, songful moment which one might ascribe to Faure without guilt.