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.