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Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Nocturne
Nocturne, Op. 72, No.1 (1827) (arranged by Sergei Taneyev) [4:43]
Prelude, Op.28, No.6 (1836-38) [1:58]
Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 65 (1845-46) [30:06]
Prelude, Op.28, No.4 1838) (arr. Mørk & Stott) [2:29]
Waltz, Op.34, No.2 (1831) [6:27]
Nocturne (after Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op. Posth (1830) arr. Mørk & Stott) [4:39]
Introduction et Polonaise brillante in C major, Op.3 (1829, Introduction 1830) [9:05]
Nocturne, Op.55, No.2 (1843) [4:58]
É tude, Op.25, No.7 (1836) (arr. Glazunov) [5:41]
É tude, Op.10, No.6 (1830) (arr. Glazunov) [3:56]
Truls Mørk (cello)
Kathryn Stott (piano)
rec. 21-23 September 2006, Østre Fredrikstad Church, Norway. DDD
VIRGIN CLASSICS 3 85784 2 [74:06]



It seems that the cello sonata and the Introduction et Polonaise brillante are original Chopin cello and piano compositions. The Prelude, Waltz and Nocturne are Chopin’s own piano scores that he arranged for cello and piano. That leaves five of Chopin’s piano works here recorded in arrangements made by others: 
• Nocturne, Op. 72, No.1 arranged by Sergei Taneyev.
• Etudes, Op.25, No.7 and Op.10, No.6 arranged by Alexander Glazunov.
• Prelude, Op.28, No.4 and the Nocturne (after the Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op. posth.) arranged by Truls Mørk and Kathryn Stott.
 
It is a shame that it was not possible to have included the Grand Duo Concertant in E Major on themes from Meyerbeer’s ‘Robert le Diable’ for cello and piano (c.1831/32) that Chopin wrote in partnership with his friend the cellist and composer Auguste Franchomme. I can recommend a fine version of the Grand Duo Concertant performed by cellist Norman Fischer and pianist Jeanne Kierman on Bridge Records 9187.
 
Chopin’s compositional output was almost exclusively for solo piano although he did write a handful of scores for piano and orchestra, also a student piano trio, a number of songs and a few works for cello and piano. Musicologist Edward Dannreuther did not feel that Chopin was at his most comfortable when composing for instruments other than the piano; a view I often hear expressed by Chopin commentators. Conversely a note in the accompanying booklet puts forward the view about Chopin and the cello, “one could assume he had a special affinity for the instrument.”
 
The feature work on this release is the four movement Cello Sonata in G minor that Chopin dedicated to Auguste Franchomme. The substantial opening movement marked Allegro moderato is as long as the other three movements put together. In this seriously dramatic movement Mørk and Stott are convincing fully meeting the weighty demands of contrast of mood and texture. The restless Scherzo contains a broad central section of considerable lyricism and in the slow movement the duo perform with heart-breaking emotion. The high-spirited and scampering Finale, Allegro provides a welcome respite from the serious character of the previous movements.
 
While Mørk and Stott are in excellent form in the Sonata I would not relinquish my favoured interpretation from cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han. It was tremendous personality and energy and was recorded in 1996 in New York. The performance was available as a BBC Music Magazine cover CD from the January 1997 edition (c/w Grieg Cello Sonata & Schumann Adagio and Allegro). In 2004 I was fortunate to attend a recital where the husband and wife partnership of Finckel and Han gave a superb performance of the Chopin Sonata. I also admire the dramatic 1980 Herkules Saal, Munich account of the sonata from Rostropovich and Argerich on Deutsche Grammophon 419 860-2 (Chopin: Polonaise, Op. 3; Schumann: Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70 arr. F. Grützmacher).
 
The Introduction et Polonaise Brillante is Chopin’s only other score composed originally for cello and piano. Chopin first wrote a Polonaise brillante in 1829 for Prince Antoni Radziwill of the Duchy of Poznań; adding an Introduction the next year. Mørk’s cello line is persuasive displaying robust energy and a sure sense of drama.
 
Chopin’s arrangements of his own piano pieces are the: Prelude, Op.28, No.6; Waltz, Op.34, No.2 and the Nocturne, Op.55, No.2. The very brief Prelude, Op.28/6 is interpreted unhurriedly with gracious tenderness. I imagine that the lyrical Prelude often serves as an encore piece. Despite its title the Waltz, Op.34/2 is a substantial score with Mørk and Stott evoking enchanting moods rather than the spirit of dancing in an elegant ballroom. Passion abounds in the Nocturne, Op.55/2 in what feels like a musical love-letter of the most intimate nature. 
 
Russian composer Alexander Glazunov arranged two of Chopin’s Études: Op.25, No.7 and Op.10, No.6. These are highly successful arrangements from Glazunov although I dearly adore Chopin’s set of études in their original solo piano form. The remarkably assured playing here extracts copious amounts of passion in both of these sumptuously spiced and scented Études.
 
Sergei Taneyev was another Russian composer to make arrangements of Chopin for cello and piano with the Nocturne, Op. 72, No.1. Mørk and Stott aptly demonstrate that this is a most sensitive arrangement of a gorgeous, idyllic work that proves to be a valuable addition to the repertoire.
 
The players have collaborated to produce their own impressive cello and piano arrangements of the Prelude, Op.28, No.4 and the Nocturne (after the Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op. posth.). They splendidly communicate the syrupy and languorous personality of the Prelude, Op.28/4 sounding beautiful in its new guise. The exquisite decorations of the Nocturne permit Mørk ample opportunity for virtuosic display.
 
Whilst I have admired Chopin’s splendidly dramatic cello sonata for many years I sense that some listeners may find the nine remaining scores on the release to be excessively sweet and cloyingly perfumed. Perhaps the inclusion of two or three of Chopin’s contrasting solo piano pieces of a virile and fiery quality would have improved the textural blend.
 
I found the booklet notes rather bewildering when trying to determine which scores are Chopin’s original works for cello and piano. A comprehensive list of compositional dates for the works is not provided yet I managed to research them in a matter of minutes.
 
The engineers have provided highly satisfying acoustics with crystal clear sound and the cello although closely miked suits my taste. Masterly playing in these highly attractive Chopin scores.  
 
Michael Cookson
 



 


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