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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Adagio and Allegro in A flat for cello and piano, Op. 70 (1849) [9:45]
Fantasiestücke for cello and piano, Op. 73 (1849) [11:14]
Fünf Stücke im Volkston for cello and piano, Op. 102 (1849) [16:02]
Märchenbilder for cello and piano, Op. 113 (transcribed by Alfredo Piatti, edited by Christian Bellisario) (1851) [15:43]
Franz Peter SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Arpeggione Sonata in A minor for cello and piano, D.821 (1824) [25:22]
Antonio Meneses (cello)
Gérard Wyss (piano)
rec. 26-28 May 2006, Potton Hall, Dunwich, Saxmundham, Suffolk, England. DDD
AVIE AV2112 [78:51]

On this release the Avie label present a programme of works for cello and piano. Four are by Schumann and one from Schubert but only one of the scores was composed specifically for the pairing of cello and piano.

The most significant and longest work here is the Arpeggione Sonata that Schubert wrote for the now obsolete arpeggione. This six string instrument that was similar in shape, tuned and fretted like a guitar and played between the knees like a cello with a bow, enjoyed a brief vogue for a decade or so after its invention in around 1823. The sonata was commissioned in 1824 by Johann Georg Staufer who is generally acknowledged as the inventor of the arpeggione.

Probably the best known version of Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata is the authoritative 1968 Snape Maltings recital from Rostropovich and Britten on a ‘Legendary Performances’ disc: Decca 460 974-2 (c/w Schumann Fünf Stücke im Volkston and Debussy Cello Sonata). The celebrity cellist and composer Gaspar Cassadó transcribed a Cello Concerto from the Arpeggione Sonata that he recorded with the Hallé Orchestra under Sir Hamilton Harty. This historic recording from 1929 is available on ASV CDHLT8003.

Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro from 1849 was originally scored for horn and piano and known by the title of ‘Romanze und Allegro’. From the same year the three movement Fantasiestücke was originally scored for the pairing of clarinet and piano. Formerly titled ‘Soiréestüke’ the Fünf Stücke im Volkston (Five Pieces in Folk Style) from1849 were written for cello and piano although Schumann provides an alternative part for the violin. Meaning ‘Fairytale Pictures’, the four movement set Märchenbilder dates from 1851 and was composed for viola and piano with an alternative violin part. The Märchenbilder transcription for cello and piano is by Schumann’s contemporary, the distinguished cellist and composer Alfredo Piatti, in an edition by cellist Christian Bellisario.

I have been a long-time admirer of the spontaneously felt and affectionate 1999 Brussels performances of the Fantasiestücke; Adagio and Allegro; Fünf Stücke im Volkston and the Nicht schnell movement from Märchenbilder played by Mischa Maisky and Martha Argerich on Deutsche Grammophon 469 524-2 (c/w Schumann Romanze No. 1 in A minor, Op. 94/1 and Cello Concerto, Op. 129).

The classy partnership of cellist Antonio Meneses and pianist Gérard Wyss proves to be a highly fruitful one. In Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata the players impress in the lyrical opening Allegro moderato with its contrasting moods of pining and flirting, melancholy and vivacity. Their interpretation of the Adagio is calm and beautiful and the final movement Allegretto has an easy-going and genial temperament.

In Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro Meneses and Wyss convey a magical quality to the opening Adagio with playing both heart-felt and tender and in the closing Allegro their reading is bold and compelling. The Fantasiestücke is especially convivial and in the opening piece Meneses and Wyss are direct and endearing. The duo are charming and eloquent with the central piece and refreshingly spirited in the highly lyrical closing piece.

In the Fünf Stücke im Volkston I particularly enjoyed the interpretation of Meneses and Wyss in the first piece that is so bursting with enthusiasm and wit. The pair continue to impress offering a special poetry to the second piece. The playing has a convincing brooding character in the middle piece, and there is a joyous and sunny disposition to the brief and ebullient fourth piece. Robustness abounds in the compellingly rhythmic final piece.

Meneses and Wyss provide a nocturnal feel to the rather reflective opening piece of the Märchenbilder, however in the second piece it is felt that the energetic playing of the duo was not always in complete unison. I loved the frenetic and agitated character imparted to the short third item. The duo allow the beautiful lyricism of the closing piece to wash over the listener like a soothing balm.

Recorded in Potton Hall, the sound quality, produced and engineered by Simon Fox-Gál, is of a high standard being well balanced and clear. At times this was so realistic one could imagine being sat next to the players. I just loved the luxuriant timbre of Antonio Meneses’s 1730 cello by Alessandro Gagliano of Naples. Gérard Wyss plays a Steinway Model D that has a most delightful tone. The elevated standard is maintained by interesting and informative booklet notes from Stephen Pettitt. This Avie disc is an all round success and a most welcome addition to the catalogue.

Michael Cookson



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