> CHOPIN, RACHMANINOV Cello Sonatas Walton/Owen [TB]: Classical CD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Cello Sonata
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)

Cello Sonata
Jamie Walton (cello); Charles Owen (piano)
Recorded 18-19 Dec 2001, Netherhall House, London
SOMM SOMMCD 026 [64.36]


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The repertoire of cello sonatas after Beethoven is not exactly enormous, and these two works are among the best. They are both written on the large scale, and both of them feature first movements around a quarter of an hour in duration. Any music which comes into that category has to be both strongly constructed and characterfully inventive, which of course is abundantly true in each case.

Aside from a handful of songs, the Cello Sonata Chopin wrote towards the end of his tragically short life is unusual in allowing the creative focus to be placed away from the solo role of his own instrument, the piano. Make no mistake, this is a major work by any standards, and it also finds Chopin at the height of his powers. The relationship between the two instruments is a true partnership, and these young artists take every opportunity to express the music's romantic ardour, while not denying its classically conceived construction. In this they are aided by a firm and atmospheric recorded sound, and an ideal chamber music acoustic. The second movement Scherzo is particularly successful in its rhythmic pointings, while the short slow movement makes its mark too. This performance is well judged and rather more satisfying, I feel, than some recordings by more famous names.

The Rachmaninov Cello Sonata, like the Chopin, is one of the composer's most successful compositions. If I have a criticism it is that the large-scale outer movements do not quite build that surging romantic intensity which is this composer's special expressive characteristic. Balances are nicely managed, and the tone quality of both players is always pleasing. While the recording does not build up Walton's tone, it remains wholly pleasing and natural.

A most satisfying disc, then, and the whole issue has excellent production standards.

Terry Barfoot

see also review by William Hedley


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