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.
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.