With the exception of the Ysaÿe Op. 28 sonata
all of the works on this CD were originally written for violin.
Lekeu died young before his 24th birthday but there
is nothing unformed about his Cello Sonata written within twelve months
of his death. It is a work of passionate engagement and of song caught
on the wing. Here in the hands of Wallfisch and York it breathes a positively
Russian intensity into an art nouveau opulence. Its overpowering
cantabile quality is reminiscent of Chausson's chamber Concert.
Ysaÿe's Rêve is all you would quietly expect of a
work with that title. The cello transcription of the famous Franck violin
sonata sounds completely idiomatic and is lent a glowing amber depth
by the baritone character of the instrument. Amazing how well the finale
suits the sound of the cello. It reminded me of Moray Welsh's superb
reading of the John Foulds' Cello Sonata - incidentally a work totally
undeserving its abject neglect. Now if only Cello Classics would be
prepared to record that work with Mr Welsh.
Now to the only work here that was originally written
for the cello. The Ysaÿe Op. 28 was published in 1924 just after
the death of the composer's wife Louise, Quite apart from the technical
resource required Ysaÿe shows a thoughtful practicality in the
tight timing of each of the four movements - a recognition of the needs
of listeners when confronted with a solo string instrument through the
expanses of a sonata? Across its four movements the music reflects and
muses in dark and at times macabre ways. This is highly introspective
music written with a knowing awareness of new idioms. It is but a step
away from this into the Bax Rhapsodic Ballad and the Kodaly unaccompanied
cello sonata. By the way the famous Starker recording of the Kodaly
(presumably on that Saga LP) was used to keep the young Raphael Wallfisch
happy as a baby!
By the way: Wallfisch’s father was Peter Wallfisch
whose championing of Frank Bridge’s Phantasm (both in the BBC studio
with the English Chamber Orchestra and on a Lyrita LP) paralleled the
work of that outstanding cellist Thomas Igloi on behalf of Bridge’s
Oration. Peter Wallfisch was also a long-term supporter of the
music of Kenneth Leighton whose first two piano concertos he premiered.
This disc is as generously timed as the equally attractive
Shafran historical on the same label (CC1008).
I couldn't resist suggesting one new project to Cello
Classics and here is another. Who on earth now holds the rights in the
famous Saga recording of Janos Starker in the Kodaly unaccompanied cello
sonata. This would be a project that, with the original Duo coupling,
would be welcomed widely and not just by cello specialists.
To the subject in hand. This is a very successful disc
carried off with burnished conviction and flare by a cellist who has,
through his Chandos connection, explored great swathes of the cello
Recommended to those curious about Ysaÿe and Lekeu
as well as to cello fanciers everywhere.