Somm Records, the independent British label, often provide
fascinating and imaginative recordings of unusual repertoire
and continue this tendency with this new release.
the guidance of his teacher, the conductor Friedrich Wilhelm Meyer, Strauss spent the early part
of the 1880s working his way up from two instrument Sonatas through
to his first Symphony. Strauss liked to write
chamber scores and songs with the purpose of performance
for family get-togethers, celebrations and musical evenings,
where he would play either the violin or piano. It would
seem likely that his chamber works were intended for
domestic use; rather like a Straussian equivalent of
A product of Strauss’s ardent youth the Violin Sonata is
an appealing score
that proves to be more than a mere off-cut from the master’s workbench.
there is a strong tendency in his early works for Strauss
to use classical models as templates against which he
could measure his craft. Biographer Michael Kennedy has
out that Strauss’ Violin Sonata is the “last of
his classically designed works and his last piece of orthodox
three movements the work follows the traditional quick-slow-quick
format, opening with a surging movement that soon reveals
Strauss’s operatic leanings. The central movement andante
cantabile subtitled ‘improvisation’ begins like a Mendelssohn ‘Song
without words’ and has a strong flavour of the adagio
cantabile of Beethoven’s ‘Pathetique’ sonata.
The final movement soon breaks into a fiery allegro that
reminds one of the sweeping lines contained in his tone-poem Macbeth.
There are some lively fugato passages interspersed
with rich chromaticism.
his Cello Sonata Rachmaninov gave the cello and
piano repertoire one of its most popular and imposing
response to claims that the piano part overshadowed the
cello part Rachmaninov explained, “It is not for cello with
piano accompaniment, but for two instruments in equal balance”.
score to the Cello Sonata demonstrates Rachmaninov’s
exceptionally detailed knowledge of the expressive capabilities
of the instrument, a knowledge doubtless acquired with the
assistance of his friend Brandukov, to whom the score is
dedicated and by whom it was premièred. In four movements
the cello plays the opening movement’s yearning first
subject with the piano given the responsibility of carrying
second. In the second movement the grisly tarantella begins
gloomily but also brings one of Rachmaninov’s most characteristic
melodies, at once soothing and aspirational. After the
controlled emotional interchanges of the andante, the splendidly
affirmative finale anticipates the exhilarating
conclusion of Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2, with some
foretastes too, of his Piano concerto No.3 along the way. The arrangement
of the cello part for viola has been made by Vadim
Borisovsky and these new textures provide a further awareness
and appreciation of Rachmaninov’s careful distribution of material
between the pianist’s hands for weight and colouring.
It is even more crucial than in the cello original for
stringed instrument not to be overwhelmed.
Rachmaninov’s Vocalise Op. 34/14 was composed in 1912 and revised
three years later as the last of the fourteen of his set
of Songs without words. Its melancholy melody, so
full of mourning and loss, rapidly made it a favourite with
soloists and concert audiences alike. Here in his own arrangement,
Yuri Zhislin duets with himself on the violin and viola,
which is overdubbed when playing unison, in a tour de
force of recording and performing techniques. Zhislin’s
arrangement, which is in effect a trio, is a highly successful
and satisfying composition.
Moscow-born Yuri Zhislin on violin/viola and Greek pianist
George-Emmanuel Lazaridis perform these scores with a committed
intensity and a spring-like freshness. The playing from Zhislin
and Lazaridis is refined and affectionate, achieving an impressive
blend of tone colours. In the Strauss sonata I especially
enjoyed their direct and ebullient playing in the contrasting
moods of the concluding movement. The viola and piano arrangement
of the Rachmaninov Cello Sonata is given a characterful
interpretation and I was particularly impressed with their
sensitivity in the andante and their controlled power
in the finale. In the impressively performed Vocalise the
silvery tones of the violin and the velvety timbre of the
viola are highly appealing.
performers are quite closely recorded which is just to
my taste and I found the clear acoustic to be dry and
bright. The booklet notes are interesting and informative,
I cannot agree with the author’s assertion that the cello/piano
repertoire is “limited”. A cello enthusiast friend
of mine is currently putting together a database, that
already contains a couple of hundred works for cello
excellently performed release of highly attractive romantic
chamber works. With clear sound and balance throughout,
this collection deserves a warm welcome.
by Jonathan Woolf