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Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Cello Sonata in G minor op. 65 (1845-6) [26:14]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)

Cello Sonata in A minor op. 36 (1883) [30:57]
Erling Blöndal Bengtsson (cello)
Nina Kavtaradze (piano)
rec. Mantziusgården, Birkerød, Denmark, 27-29 July 2005
DANACORD DACOCD 644 [57:18]

 

 

Chopin’s cello sonata Op. 65 is one of his late works, given its première in Paris on 16 February 1848 by the composer and the work’s dedicatee, Auguste-Joseph Franchomme. Somewhat neglected in the past, it nonetheless stands comparison with other romantic works on a similar scale. The minor tonality defines this sonata’s sense of almost melancholic yearning, and even the D major passages in the second Scherzo movement are filled with major/minor relationships which tug at the listener’s heartstrings. The mood is ‘centred’ in the third Largo movement, with Chopin allowing the melodic line to be sung by both cello and piano, turning it into an imploring, rhapsodic conversation – not so much between two equal partners, as by a single person regarding themselves in a dusty mirror. The more substantial outer movements are a feast of melodic invention, and of course have richly filled piano parts. Bengtsson and Kavtaradze play out of their skins in the Allegro Finale, ensuring that Chopin’s musical message is emphatically planted into our consciousness.

From the outset, Grieg’s Sonata Op. 36 is filled with restless energy and passion. The piece was written for and is dedicated to the composer’s brother John, who must have had a considerable talent, despite choosing their father’s business over a musical career. Perhaps some of the turbulence of their relationship, or of John’s character rubbed off onto the music – John is known to have started an affair with Edvard’s wife Nina, and committed suicide in 1901. Whatever the background, the first movement is one of the most passionate Grieg ever composed, concluding with the opening theme of the famous Piano Concerto, almost as an afterthought. The second movement carries on with a different quote, this time from Grieg’s ‘March of Allegiance’ from the incidental music to ‘Sigurd Jorsalfar’. This theme is developed out of all recognition, becoming a full-blown romantic movement which goes far beyond its simple Andante marking. In the final Allegro Grieg once again draws on a number of his own famous themes, but familiarity does not breed contempt here – Grieg was self-critical enough to hold back from mere reproduction of earlier triumphs, and it is fascinating to hear how he plays with his own material, pushing and pulling it through all kinds of hoops in order to create a(n almost) cohesive whole.

Erling Blöndal Bengtsson’s cello playing is expressive, impassioned and gently restrained by turns, always sympathetic to the music and impeccably intonated and articulated. The recording gives a good balance between the cello and Nina Kavtaradze’s excellent piano playing, which is placed in such a way as to avoid the cello being swamped by both composers’ richly pianistic accompaniments. Full marks to Danacord for keeping this repertoire alive and most certainly ‘kicking’ in all senses of the word – highly recommended.

Dominy Clements

 

 



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