Rachmaninov’s beautiful, deeply-felt
and immediately accessible Cello Sonata
was composed in the winter of 1901 just
after his famous Second Piano Concerto.
It shares the haunting melodic characteristics
of that work. The two Russian soloists
Gorokhov and Demidenko are nicely balanced
and poised. They deliver lucid and fluid,
poetic and passionate performances;
beautifully phrased but without undue
sentimentality. The work has been recorded
numerous times but I will return to
this recording time and again with great
and approachable D minor Cello Sonata
is quite uncharacteristically romantic.
It was composed in 1934 just after his
First Piano Concerto and at a time when
he was going through a personal crisis.
Soon after his marriage, he fell in
love with another young woman; his wife
discovered his secret and threatened
to leave him. The opening movement reflects
the turbulence of personal passion,
one can imagine longing, anguish, remorse
and guilt beside tender romantic feelings
- all these emotions are communicated
with sympathy and compassion. The closing
pages have Rachmaninov-like sentimentality
crushed by harsh, regimented chords.
The second movement is more outgoing:
a quirky, jazzy mix of dance and march
with an extraordinary central section
that has the cello engaging in sul
ponticello effects with some very
odd glissandi. The affecting Largo slow
movement opens very solemnly with the
cello’s melancholy and, perhaps, remorseful
figures penetratingly questioned by
cold piano chords that only reluctantly,
partially melt towards the end of the
movement. A powerful reading this, probing
deeply. The finale begins wryly and
continues sardonically, the music strongly
propelled forward by dance rhythms.
five-movement Suite in the Old Style
is just that – a sequence of charming,
sweetly melodic, neo-classical confections.
It is based on music that Schnittke
had written for films. The opening ‘Pastorale’
is a gentle, wistful piece with slowly
rocking figures. ‘Ballet’ is busier,
more energetic with folksong-like material
(used for a film about a dentist!).
‘Minuet’ and ‘Pantomime (fifth in order)
are elegant and dainty, rococo in style.
The Bachian ‘Fugue’ (for a film about
a crooked athlete) is bracing and racy.
The soloists show us all the fresh enchantment
of these little gems.
Poised, polished, poetic
and passionate performances of beautiful,
accessible Russian chamber works. Warmly