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Romantic Cello Sonatas
César FRANCK (1822-1890)

Sonata in A (1886) [28'45]

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Sonata in D, Op. 78 (1878/9) [26'59]

Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Introduction and Polonaise brillante in C, Op. 3 (1829/30) [9'39]

Frédéric CHOPIN/Auguste FRANCHOMME (1808-1884)

Grand Duo concertant on Themes from Meyerbeer's 'Robert le Diable' (1832) [12'45]

Adrien-François SERVAIS (1807-1866)

Souvenir de Spa, Op. 2. Fantaisie polonaise sur des airs du ballet, 'La Noce de Cracovie', Op. 19.
Edmont Baert (cello); Serge Bémant (piano).
PAVANE ADW7124/5 [109'43: 57'05+52'38]


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The general heading of 'Romantic Cello Sonatas' actually only refers to the contents of the first disc of this well-planned product. Disc One contains the 'meat' (two sonatas originally for violin and piano, here played on the cello); Disc Two introduces lighter, more flamboyantly virtuoso fare.

The relatively close recording for the Franck, in general, works well for this impassioned piece. Try the opening of the second movement for a demonstration of the pianist's prowess as well as that of the cellist. Whether one warms to a performance of this piece on the cello depends very much on taste. Certainly the lyrical lines emerge well, and there is no question of any drowning out by Bémant. If anything, recording perspective becomes closer in the third movement (Andante), but there is no denying that the pair have the measure of the finale: the tempo is perfectly caught and there is real excitement.

Many of the qualities of the Franck characterise the Brahms as well. Intonation is excellent from Baert (even in higher registers and in stopped passages), and his accompanist is most attentive. The opening movement is autumnal and wistful (if not really the prescribed, 'Vivace ma non troppo'). Bémant has complete mastery of the piano part (no small matter). Perhaps the Adagio could be further ennobled (more space and depth from the recording would probably have helped here). Again, the players elect to highlight the wistful nature of the finale, although there is plenty of agility when required.

Although not many people may want to play the second disc through in one sitting, it contains much to recommend it, not least the 'Introduction and Polonaise', Op. 3 by Chopin. The Polonaise is impassioned and is, indeed, pure Chopin, and Baert also makes much of the Introduction's lyric impulse. The Chopin/Franchomme is in many ways the typical Romantic 'fantaisie,' even complete with melodramatic tremolandi for the piano.

Adrien-François Servais obtained a Premier Prix at the Brussels Conservatoire, often performing his own works (Berlioz referred to him as 'Paganinian'). He composed two Cello Concertos and 16 Fantaisies for cello. The 'Souvenir de Spa' is certainly a fine example of its genre. Baert plays it brilliantly, treating the listener to a feast of double-stopping towards the close. Similarly, breathtaking octaves occur in the 'Fantaisie polonaise,' Op. 19.

Certainly this is a twofer which will provide much entertainment.


Colin Clarke




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