Classical CD Reviews

MOSCHELES: Cello Sonata No. 2 in E Major, Op. 121; 3 Melodic-Contrapuntal Studies, Op. 137; HUMMEL: Cello Sonata in A Major, Op. 104 – Jiri Barta, cello/ Hamish Milne, piano – Hyperion

A pair of lovely cello sonatas from minor Romantic composers

Published on June 29, 2006

MOSCHELES: Cello Sonata No. 2 in E Major, Op. 121; 3 Melodic-Contrapuntal Studies, Op. 137; HUMMEL: Cello Sonata in A Major, Op. 104 – Jiri Barta, cello/ Hamish Milne, piano – Hyperion
MOSCHELES: Cello Sonata No. 2 in E Major, Op. 121; 3 Melodic-Contrapuntal Studies, Op. 137; HUMMEL: Cello Sonata in A Major, Op. 104 – Jiri Barta, cello/ Hamish Milne, piano – Hyperion CDA67521  64:53 (Distrib. Harmonia mundi) ****:

Ignaz Moscheles (1794-1870) remains a minor Romantic figure, this despite his repute as a piano virtuoso of some power and as a friend of several significant major composers, including Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann, the later the dedicatee of the ambitious E Major Cello Sonata (1851). The Cello Sonata is a consistently exuberant work, often touched by nationalistic colors and rhythms; the last movement could easily pass as Mendelssohn’s. If the second movement–marked ballabile for its dance-like character–possesses a Scotch snap, the third movement Ballade clearly echoes the Bohemia where the composer was born.

While the piano part exhibits considerable virtuosity, and the cello part falls in gratifying harmonies, I cannot say that anything strikes me as particularly memorable about the melodic content of the writing. More intriguing to me are the three studies for cello and piano based on Bach’s WTC. Moscheles set ten Bach preludes with cello obbligato, adding a romantic color and concertante effect. As a pianist, Moscheles programmed Scarlatti, Bach, and Handel regularly. Here, Moscheles’ purpose seems to have been to make Bach’s fairly neglected music more accessible to a middle class audience.

The Cello Sonata Op. 104 of Hummel (1778-1837) dates from 1824 Weimar. The entire tone of the work is a singing, cantabile pairing of two instrumental colleagues. Close in spirit to Mendelssohn and Chopin, the sonata could easily pass as an under-appreciated piece by the young Chopin. The second movement is marked Romanze and plays as a lovely song without words. Even a briefly vehement middle section does not dispel the intimate charm of the movement. The graceful Rondo has a decidedly rococo charm. The energetic filigree again reminds one of a Chopin krakowiak or hybrid polonaise-tarantella. The piano part dominates a cello which holds long notes or sings rapturously. Eminently gentle, accomplished music, the Cello Sonata communicates an easy finesse which bespeaks the character of the man Hummel. Excellent sound and another classy production from Hyperion.

– Gary Lemco




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