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Original Works and Classics for Cello and Double Bass
Ignaz Joseph PLEYEL (1757-1831)
Rondeau in C major [2:34]
Theme and Variations in G major [8:41]
Franz BENDA (1709-1786)
Sonata in F major [5:38]
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
3 Fugues [6:20]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Duo in D major [1:26]
Giorgio ANTONIOTTI (1692-1776)
Sonata No. 9 in C minor [9:55]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
2 Canons in F major [3:19]
Johann Michael HAYDN (1737-1806)
Polonaise in C major [3:35]
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Andantine and Tempo di minuetto [9:06]
Anton KRAFT (1749-1820)
Sonata No. 1 in B flat major* (14:16)
Jean Louis DUPORT (1749-1819)
Adagio in E flat major* [5:42]
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Divertimento in D major* [7:19]
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
Sonata No.3 in G major* [9:31]
Gotthelf Heinrich KUMMER (1774-1857)
Variations in C major, Op. 12* [7:36]
Franz Christoph NEUBAUER (1750-1795)
Sonata No.1 in C major* [8:58]
Jörg Baumann (cello), Klaus Stoll (double bass)
rec. Teldec Studio, Berlin, 25-28 February 1980; 8-10 October 1984.
WARNER APEX 2564 62298-2 [50:45 + 54:25]

 

 

Given the inevitable limitations of instrumental colour, it is hard to imagine that many listeners will want to sit down to listen to these two CDs from beginning to end, despite the admirable musicianship of Jörg Baumann and Klaus Stoll. On the other hand, this is a valuable reference collection to have on the shelves, making available unique recordings of a lot of out-of-the-way repertoire, some of it of real merit and enduring interest. The greater part of the material played here belongs to the second half of the eighteenth century, but there is also work from earlier and later periods, all for the combination of cello and double bass.

The earliest composers here are Telemann and the much lesser known Giorgio Antoniotti. Telemann is represented by a two brief, but charming canons. The Milanese Antoniotti was one of the many Italian composers of the period who worked in Northern Europe (including the Netherlands and London). His seven Sonatas for cello and double bass were published in Amsterdam in 1736. The four movement sonata played here, which could probably be played just as well on two gambas, alternates slow and fast movements; the bass takes the continuo role in the slow movements and there is more instrumental dialogue in the quicker movements. This is a thoroughly competent, if unremarkable, piece with some attractive singing lines for the cello, especially in the opening movement, marked adagio e sostenuto, and some interesting fugal writing in the final allegro.

The Bohemian Franz Benda was a famous violinist of his day, playing in the orchestra of Frederick II from 1733 until his death in 1786. His Sonata in F major, in three movements, contains some graceful cantabile passages for the cello and a dancing final movement which is played here with considerable panache.

Unsurprisingly, it was often the skills of particular musicians that led to the composition of pieces for this particular instrumental combination. Anton Kraft was one of the great cellists at the end of the eighteenth century; he worked with Haydn in Esterházy and, later, in Vienna. Haydn wrote a number of cello concertos for him, and his Andantino e Tempo di Minuetto was doubtless written with Kraft in mind. It was perhaps performed by Kraft with the virtuoso double bass player, Matthias Sperger. It is a piece of consummate subtlety, which stands out from most of what surrounds it on these CDs as the product of a mind of the highest musical intelligence. This – especially the opening Andantino - is, I suspect, the piece to which I shall most often return in the future. The Divertimento in D major comes from Haydn’s years at Esterházy and, relatively lightweight though it is, its three movements have a distinctive charm which one can only call Haydnesque, not least in the way the pizzicato double bass is used in the central menuett and in the joyous and witty presto which closes it. Perhaps Michael Haydn also had Kraft and Sperger in mind when composing his Polonaise in C major, which revels in the darker hues of the two instruments.

Kraft was himself a composer, among his publications being six Sonatas for cello and bass. The Sonata in B flat major contains some lovely writing for the cello, which is very much the dominant instrument in the piece. The central adagio has a limpid beauty and the variations of the final movement have a serious grace. To judge by this Sonata, we ought to hear more of the music of Anton Kraft.

Boccherini was, of course, a cello virtuoso - and his father was a fine player of the double bass. The youthful composer naturally wrote for this combination of instruments. His Sonata No. 3 in G major is a fine piece; the opening largo has some long melodic lines, the allegro alla militare some ringing, declamatory writing for the cello and the closing minuetto cries out for dancers. The three Fugues are a bit more humdrum, but I suspect that Boccherini was constitutionally incapable of writing anything that was actually dull. Another famous cello virtuoso, Jean Louis Duport was the younger of two cello-playing brothers – the older brother, Jean-Pierre was born in 1741. Jean Louis is believed to have been Beethoven’s partner in the first performance, in 1796, of Beethoven’s opus 5 cello sonatas. Duport’s Adagio here is, however, one of the less interesting pieces in the programme, a rather ponderous piece which seems rather short on ideas.

The Bohemian Franz Christoph Neubauer, whose travels took him to the Vienna of Haydn and Mozart, eventually settled as a court musician in Bückeburg, where he succeeded J.C.F. Bach as Konzertmeister. A hard drinker who died young, he was also a prolific and accomplished composer in most of the fashionable genres; most of his work awaits modern recordings. His Sonata No. 1 in C major elicits some particularly warm and affectionate playing from Baumann and Stoll, its three movements marked by some slightly unconventional harmonies and interesting instrumental interplay. Ignaz Pleyel was born near Vienna (the 24th of 38 children!) and studied with Haydn before travelling extensively in Europe (including London). In the mid 1790s he settled in Paris and his activities as a businessman – initially as a music publisher and then as a manufacturer of pianos – largely put an end to his work as a composer. He had previously been an immensely prolific and very popular composer – though some of his work has now been recorded, we have yet to do him anything like full justice. Of the two duets recorded here the most rewarding is an attractive and lively Rondeau which has more than a touch of Haydn about it. Kummer’s set of Variations, are said to have been first published in 1790, when the composer would have been sixteen. Pleasantly conceived and worked out, these variations do not require one to make any special allowance for the youth of their composer.

Massenet’s Duo of 1883 is a puzzling inclusion. Chronologically and stylistically it scarcely coheres with the rest of the programme and, in any case, it is a rather slight piece.

Taken as a whole, the programme is historically fascinating and, for the most part, musically interesting, even if most of the pieces (I would except those by Haydn,  Boccherini, Kraft and Neubauer) are of the second rank.

Glyn Pursglove

 

 

 

 

 



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