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Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Romance in F AV75 [10:30]
Cello Sonata in F Op.6 (1883) [27:18]
Max REGER (1873-1916)
Cello Sonata No 2 in G minor Op.28 (1898) [25:17]
Petite Romance in D Op.79 No.2 [2:09]
Emmanuelle Bertrand (cello)
Pascal Amoyal (piano)
rec. Teldex Studio, Berlin in February 2004
HARMONIA MUNDI  HMC 901836 [65:27]



This disc contrasts cello sonatas by two German composers, the musical fortunes of whom differed considerably. By the time Strauss wrote his F major cello sonata at the age of 19 he was already well-known and the Nuremberg premičre given by the dedicatee Hanuš Wihan was enthusiastically received. It is a lush, late-romantic work in three conventionally structured movements that looks back to the first half of the 18th century. It also gives forward glimpses of the world of the tone poems Strauss was soon to write. The opening movement is dramatic, slow movement wistful and finale mischievous. The young French cellist Emmanuelle Bertrand gives a lovingly crafted performance, perhaps too loving in the slow movement. Strauss marked this Andante non troppo but Bertrand’s pacing is adagio to my ears. The opening Romance is in the same key and was written around same time, also for Wihan. It is quite an extended work and there can be no complaints here about the degree of (marked) cantabile achieved. In both works Pascal Amoyal is a sensitive accompanist.

Reger’s G minor cello sonata was his second (he later rejected the first) and it had to wait 8 years for a performance, only achieving some measure of success in Berlin three years after that. He also wrote a third cello sonata and three suites for solo cello loosely modelled on Bach’s. Reger was already ill when he wrote this work, doomed to lack of critical acclaim and an early death. There are four movements, the first of which is simply marked agitato. This is followed by a kind of scherzo and then a tender intermezzo. Perhaps surprisingly, the finale is gracious and contains less of the brooding angst of the first movement than might be expected. Nevertheless the prevailing mood of the work is much darker than the Strauss, an artistic reflection of their fortunes in life. Bertrand and Amoyal’s performance is thoroughly convincing and there is no doubt in my mind that the Reger is the greater work. The Petite Romance which follows as an encore is almost lush enough to have written by Strauss and it brings us full circle.

The basic sound quality is excellent. The balance between the instruments is reasonable but the overall perspective just a shade close for my taste. Presentation is first-rate – an attractive cardboard case, thinner than usual and unbreakable, containing a removable booklet with good documentation. Overall, this is a desirable release that I can recommend highly.

Patrick C Waller






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