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Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Sonata for cello and piano in G major, Op. 65 (1846) [26.27]
Polonaise brillante for cello and piano, Op. 3 (1829-30) [09.07]
Grand Duo Concertant, for cello and piano (1832) [12.17]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
La lugubre gondola, for cello and piano (1882) [08.59]
Die Zelle in Nonnenwerth, for cello and piano (1880) [06.09]
Romance oubliée, for cello and piano (1880) [03.33]
Elégie No. 1, for cello and piano (1874) [05.36]
Elégie No. 2, for cello and piano (1877) [05.03]
The Fischer Duo
Norman Fischer, cello
Jeanne Kierman, piano
rec. Stude Hall, Shepherd School of Music, Rice University, Houston, Texas, USA, 7-9 January 2002 

This is a welcome release of the complete chamber works for cello and piano of Chopin and Liszt from the American independent label Bridge Records. Considering their elevated status as composers both Chopin and Liszt have not fared too well for recordings in this genre. Recordings of the Liszt scores are very rarely encountered.        
Born 19 months and 357 miles apart, Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt became the two pianistic giants of the 19th century. Together they changed the future of piano playing.
This recording from Bridge Records features the Fischer Duo in performances of all three of Chopin’s works for cello and piano, as well as the four cello and piano scores by Liszt, composed during the last twelve years of his life.
The recital opens with Chopin’s final composition, the magnificent four movement G minor Sonata. This was the last work Chopin played in public and the last work that he would hear at his deathbed. After early attempts at solo piano polonaises while still in Poland, Chopin wrote the delightful Polonaise Brillante calling it “nothing more than a glittering trifle for the salon, for ladies.” The virtuosic Grand Duo Concertant was composed in 1832 in the popular ‘opera fantasy’ genre extensively using themes from Meyerbeer’s successful opera Robert le Diable.
Liszt wrote two versions of La Lugubre gondola for solo piano, one before his son-in-law Wagner’s death and one after. It is the second version of the La Lugubre gondola that Liszt transcribed for cello and piano, and it was his preferred version of the piece. In the haunting opening recitative listeners can hear oblique references to Tristan and Isolde. The score Die Zelle in Nonnenwerth is Liszt’s 1880 reconstruction of his beautiful song of the same name, named after Nonnenwerth the small island in the Rhine where Liszt spent the summers of 1841-43. The Romance oubliée was also originally a song which Liszt transcribed for cello and piano in 1880. The two Élégies were written by Liszt in 1874 and 1877 respectively. These two Élégies are short works, both cast in three sections and are prime examples of Liszt’s more introverted side.
Founded in 1971, the Fischer Duo of cellist Norman Fischer and pianist Jeanne Kierman are exceptionally well versed in the Classical and Romantic repertoire and have a reputation for rediscovering works that have fallen into neglect. They have also commissioned several new scores. In these romantic scores they acquit themselves exceptionally well and seem thoroughly at home. Their playing is expressive and proportionate, without a trace of self-consciousness. In the Chopin Sonata they provide an emotive lushness that mirrors the height of Romanticism. I especially enjoyed their highly virtuosic performance in Chopin’s Grand Duo Concertant. In their La lugubre gondola the duo display how closely they are attuned in spirit.
I thoroughly enjoyed these performances. However, in the Chopin sonata, which is the major work on this Bridge release, I would not wish to be without my treasured interpretation from cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han. Recorded in New York in 1996 the account was available as a BBC Music Magazine cover CD from the January 1997 edition, couled with the Grieg Cello Sonata and Schumann Adagio and Allegro. I have also been fortunate to have attended a live recital where the husband and wife partnership of Finckel and Han gave a superb performance of the Chopin score.
On this Bridge release the recorded sound from the engineers is pleasing and the concise booklet notes are reasonably informative.
A disc that is well worth adding to any collection of romantic works for cello and piano.
Michael Cookson


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