This release from MDG
Gold mystifies me. Brahms wrote two
excellent cello sonatas yet this release
includes only the earliest of the two
works plus a cello transcription of
the first violin sonata and a cello
arrangement of five lieder. The cello
repertoire is already exceptionally
prolific and rich in quality so these
two transcriptions seem to be stretching
out this Brahms chamber series unnecessarily.
During the composition
of the Violin sonata, Op. 78 between
1878-79 Brahms was at his full maturity
having completed his Violin Concerto,
two symphonies, the First Piano Concerto
and a substantial amount of chamber
music. The Violin Sonata, sometimes
given the title ‘Rain Sonata’, was transcribed
for cello and piano in the key of D
major by Julius Klengel, the German
cellist/composer and published in 1897.
However on this release we have a transcription
of the Violin Sonata for cello and piano
from the German cello soloist Peter
Horr. This retains the original key.
The playing of Horr and Irsen seems
technically very sound but the interpretation
comes across as unnecessarily uneven
in pace especially in the opening movement.
A rather plodding and uninteresting
adagio is followed by a natural and
unaffected allegro finale. Unfortunately
I sense little in the way of joyous
music-making in this interpretation.
Personally I would
not look for a cello transcription of
the first Violin Sonata, Op. 78 other
than for reasons of curiosity. I would
certainly advise sticking with a recording
of the original score of which there
are several very recommendable versions
available. My particular favourite is
the 1974 account from violinist Pinchas
Zukerman and pianist Daniel Barenboim
on Deutsche Grammophon 289 453 121-2.
The couplings on this double set are
the second and third violin sonatas,
Brahms’ scherzo from the F.A.E. Sonata
and the two viola sonatas.
The notes translated
into English in the booklet are rather
difficult to read and I still do not
fully understand the intention behind
the transcribing of five of the Brahms
lieder into a score for cello and piano.
However the works are agreeable enough
and certainly well performed by the
duo Horr and Irsen. However they did
not linger long in the memory.
Over twenty years separate
Brahms’s two cello sonatas. The earliest
of the two is performed here. Brahms
composed the score between 1862 and
1865 which lay inside a fertile period
that also included the composition of
the second String Sextet op. 36, the
Piano Quintet op. 34, the Cantata:
Rinaldo op. 50 and the mighty Ein
Deutsches Requiem, op. 45. The first
Cello Sonata is a pastoral work with
elegiac overtones. Soloists Horr and
Irsen seem at one with the demands of
the score and give a pleasing account
with a quality sense of line.
There are several really
fine versions of the First Cello Sonata
op. 38. An eminently recommendable account
comes from cellist Pieter Wispelwey
and pianist Paul Komen on Channel Classics
5493; using period instruments the interpretation
should offer considerable new insights.
must surely be only a limited market
for the present two interesting cello
arrangements. Far superior accounts
of the first Cello Sonata op.38 are