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Johannes BRAHMS (1833 - 1897)
Sonata for cello and piano in E, Op 38 (1865) [23.15]
Sonata for violin and piano in D, Op 78 (1890s) [28.57] (arr. Markson/Osorio)
Sonata for cello and piano in F, Op 100 (1886) [27.16]
Richard Markson, cello; Jorge Federico Osorio, piano
Notes in English.
Recorded at St Paul’s Boys’ School, London, UK, May 2001
REGIS RRC 1098 [79.32]


Comparison recordings:

Janos Starker, cello; Abba Bogin, piano - Period (now EMI) LP
Yo-Yo Ma, cello; Emmanuel Ax, piano - Sony SK 48191

Pablo Casals, cello; Mieczyslaw Horszowski, piano - various collectors’ issue

That is a pretty intimidating list of performers to go up against — Markson and Osorio must have been mad to record these works. But, after listening, where do I think they belong in that list? Where do I think you’ll think they belong in that list? How about at the very top?

I remember my first experience with the Eminor sonata; I knew nothing about chamber music and virtually nothing about Brahms, but bought the record used for 75 cents because I thought I might like it. At hearing the first notes I think I melted like butter, I couldn’t believe a cello could make such a beautiful sound; and my excitement didn’t let up until the last note. That was the Starker performance, and I must say Markson plays with that same dark liquid sound, the phrase floating above the piano even though the sound is octaves below it. They achieve a proper Viennese waltz lilt in the allegretto, although some might want a little more. And the final fugue is all Brahms could have hoped for. I never was so aware before that this is a three voice fugue, with the piano and the cello tossing the extra voice back and forth between them, and I’ve never heard it done any better than here.

Markson and Osorio agree with the consensus that the published transcriptions for cello of the ‘Regenlied’ violin sonata Op 78 are not really by Brahms, so they felt free to alter the published score for this performance it to make it closer to the original. The result of their work is very successful; the tone of the cello seems to suit the melancholy of the music at least as well if not better than the violin, and the mass of the cello tone is better balanced against the dense piano part, so the pianist does not have to hold back his tone. Only at a couple places in the last movement do I find myself wishing the solo part were in a higher register.

The Opus 100 is less passionate and sensual than the earlier work, with more sense of struggle, more conflict between the players. When the cello is in a higher register the pianist takes the opportunity to make more of the lower notes on the instrument to very good effect. From the very first the piano seems to be in control, and Mr. Osorio does an exceptional job here. Then the second movement starts out with the cello accompanying the piano! Then they take turns. But it is in the third movement where their astounding ability to find the right balance is most perfectly demonstrated. The balances in this movement can change within the phrase. Not for a second can this music be left to play itself, and they get it right every single time. This is breathtaking virtuosity! After that they deserve a nice rest, and the sunny final movement begins by reminding us of the final movement to the second piano concerto, except that this piano part is more difficult, no matter how easy Mr. Osorio makes it sound. Wouldn’t you know it, a storm comes up threatening to to ruin our sunny day, but all ends happily.

Paul Shoemaker


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