> Brahms, Rachmaninov, schumann: YoYoMa Ax [JP]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Johannes BRAHMS (1833 1897)
Cello Sonata 1 in E minor, Op. 38, (1862 1865)
Cello Sonata 2 in F, Op. 99, (1886)
Cello Sonata arr from Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Op. 78 (1878-79) *
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873 1943)
Cello Sonata in G minor, Op 19, (1901) **
Robert SCHUMANN (1810 1856)
Adagio and Allegro in A flat, Op. 70, (1849) *
3 Fantasiestuke for cello and piano Op. 70 (1849) **
Yo Yo Ma cello with Emanuel Ax piano
Janos Starker cello with Rudolph Buchbinder piano *
Janos Starker cello with Shigeo Neriki piano **
recorded 1985, 1991 and 1994 DDD
RCA Red Seal 74321 845982 2 CDs [136.26] (budget priced)

This is a double album issued by RCA France and very welcome it is too. It collects together important cello / piano works by romantic / classical composers in performances which have been admired for some years. The recordings have been re-compiled in 2001 according to the sleeve, but the recordings, already first class have obviously not needed any remastering.

Although the sleeve illustrates Janos Starker in a weird costume, Yo Yo Ma takes up just under half of the playing time of the double album. His performances of the two Brahms Cello Sonatas with Emanuel Ax are well known on the Sony award winning recording, and many collectors may have this issue. The current issue is an earlier recording, which is in no way inferior to the later disc. Indeed there is a slight improvement in the freshness of the interpretations, with the later performances being somewhat more studied. In addition, there is a slight difference in the balance between the instruments, the cello being closer in the RCA performances.

Janos Starker then takes over for the remainder of the double album and gives us first rate performances of a number of other cello masterpieces. We have a transcription of the violin sonata, Op. 78, whereas the Sony disc mentioned above contains the Op. 108 violin sonata. Therefore if you have the Sony issue, this disc does not clash too much in the duplication stakes.

The adagio and allegro for cello and piano by Schumann completes the first disc, and these two movements make a wonderful encore for the two Brahms sonatas. Rudolf Buchbinder is a first rate accompanist and the colours of Schumanns inspiration are clearly evident. The brightly lit recording ensures that all detail of Starkers playing can be clearly heard. Written for clarinet, viola or cello, Schumann gave the players the choice of what instrument to use for this

We move on to the second disc with more Schumann, this time with Starker being accompanied by Shigeo Neriki. The level of inspiration is constant and the works on the second disc should give as much pleasure as those on the first.

The disc starts off with the Schumann Fantasiestucke, Op. 73, again written for a range of instruments with piano accompaniment. Here we have the version for cello and piano and there is a good balance between the two instruments, allowing all of the detail to be heard.

The arrangement of the Op. 78 violin sonata by Brahms then is heard and once again, the recording balances Starkers small tone very well against the much louder piano. It is good to hear this arrangement along with the original.

The disc finishes off with a very fine performance of the Rachmaninov Sonata in four movements. Anyone purchasing this French RCA double disc is in for a very rewarding two and a quarter hours listening provided they dont tire of piano and cello. I for one did not tire of it, and I enjoyed the disc very much.

John Phillips

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