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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Sonata for Cello and Piano
Vocalise (transcription by A. Brandukov)
César FRANCK (1822-1890)

Sonata for Cello and Piano (transcription from the Violin Sonata)
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)

Après un rêve (transcription by P. Casals)
Sonia Wieder-Atherton (cello) and Imogen Cooper (piano)
Recorded at the Tibor Varga Foundation Ė Sion Ė 17-20 August 2001 DDD
RCA RED SEAL 74321 911552 [79:00]


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On the face of it this should have been a very desirable compilation but the less than involving performances had this reviewer scurrying off to find alternative, more pleasing, performances of these well-loved works.

The scholastic notes suggests that Franck had "conceived the possibility for a cello to replace the violin" in his celebrated Violin Sonata. "Indeed there is an edition of the work, published during Franckís lifetime, entitled Sonata for Piano and Violin or Cello. One copy of the edition bears the composerís hand-written autograph. This revelation appears to support the claims voiced by Eugène Ysaye and Pablo Casals that a cello version would not have contradicted the composerís artistic intentions. So does it work? Well, I rather think it does; the lyricism, transcribed down to the more mellow tones of the cello, lends the work a graver more autumnal depth. But the rather plodding playing of Cooper and Wieder-Atherton in the opening movement makes me yearn to hear a more committed performance before I feel I could make a final judgement. [The Penguin Guide to compact Discs recommends the CRD 3391 recording with Robert Cohen giving "a firm strong rendering"] I hasten to add that things improve in the succeeding movements especially in the beautifully playful yet plaintive final allegretto poco mosso which, letís face it, would be difficult to dampen. My favourite recording of the Sonata, in its usual format for violin and piano, is the glorious celebrated recording by Kyung-Wha Chung and Radu Lupu on Decca 460 006-2

Alas there is little to recommend in the passionless performance of Rachmaninovís achingly beautiful and intensely melodic Sonata, one of the most glorious in the repertoire. I hasten over this disappointment and recommend you turn to the Naxos 8.550987 recording with Michael Grebanier giving a richly expressive reading with a power Wieder-Atherton hardly ever attains, and Janet Guggenheim in able support. Also recommended is the partnership of Paul Tortelier and Aldo Ciccolini on EMI CZS 5 74332-2.

I merely add that this performance of the brief Fauré work is plodding too although the Rachmaninov Vocalise has a more sympathetic approach.

Disappointing performances of well-loved works. Look elsewhere.

Ian Lace


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