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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Arpeggione Sonata, for cello and piano (1824)

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Adagio and Allegro, Opus 70 (1849)
Five Pieces in Folk Style, Opus 102 (1849)
Suite in C for cello and piano (after Bach) (1853)
Fantasiestücke, Opus 73 (1849)
Peter Bruns (cello), Roglit Ishay (piano)
Recorded 10-12 June 2003, Rosbaud Studio, Südwestrundfunk, Baden-Baden. DDD

Peter Bruns and Roglit Ishay present an enterprising programme of music by Schubert and Schumann, recently recorded with excellent sound and with excellent supporting documentation. The performances match these high standards, and the disc therefore has a strong appeal.

In 1824 Schubert composed the Arpeggione Sonata. The arpeggione was a six-stringed bowed instrument, the recent invention of Johann Staufer, whose only exponent was Schubert's friend Vincenz Schuster. Before long it became obsolete, and this, its only noteworthy composition, was soon appropriated for the cello.

There are three movements each having distinctive characteristics. Peter Bruns seems particularly at home in the lyrical sonata form Allegro (TRACK 1: 0.00) and the richly romantic Adagio. There might be room for a faster tempo in the finale, but the playing is first class.

During 1849 Schumann turned his attention to chamber music and composed several miniatures for clarinet, horn and cello with piano accompaniment. The Adagio and Allegro was originally entitled Romance and Allegro for the intended combination of horn and piano; the version for cello was a later arrangement. This piece and its fellows gathered here are among a series of duo miniatures Schumann wrote during what proved to be the final years of his tragically short life. Although in this excellent performance of the Allegro, memories of the original scoring are not dispelled, the music is conveyed with a warm understanding of Schumann’s musical style (TRACK 4: 4.32).

The delightful pieces ‘in the folk style’ are also typical of the fluency Schumann achieved in this productive year, despite living in poor health amid the political turmoil of Dresden just months after the uproar caused by the revolution of the previous year. The first piece in the sequence is a lively dance, to be played ‘with humour’. Perhaps this is reflected too in the way that the instruments exchange roles and material in the central section, as these artists abundantly show (TRACK 5: 0.00). The other pieces range widely, and move onward to a lively finale and an emphatic conclusion.

The three Fantasiestücke were originally written for the clarinet, but barely a week after he had completed the first version, Schumann made alternative editions for either violin or cello. The directions in the score make it clear that the pieces are intended to be played as a suite rather than separately, their mood developing from nostalgia through to a proud determination. Bruns and Ishat certainly convey the sense of unity implied by these directions.

Among these collected items by Schumann, the ‘stranger’ is the arrangement for cello and piano of Bach’s Cello Suite in C major, BWV1009. Like Brahms and Mendelssohn, Schumann was a great admirer of Bach, and various compositions testify to this. It was during the last year of his life that Schumann made several Bach arrangements, including cello and piano versions of all six suites for solo cello. The problem for the contemporary listener who knows the original version is that the addition of the piano part seems somewhat superfluous. Schumann exudes taste and sensitivity of course, but even these persuasive performers cannot convince that this is a major addition to the duo repertory.

Terry Barfoot


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