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Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Sonata for Cello and Piano in C major, Op. 65 (1961) [20:25] György LIGETI (1923-2006)
Cello Sonata (1948/1953) [8:22] Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Sonata for Piano and Cello in E minor, Op. 38 (1862-65) [25:12]
(cello); Peter Friis Johansson (piano)
rec. Nybrokajen 11, Stockholm, 18-19 November, 16-17 December,
28-29 December 2006. CAPRICE CAP21767 [53:59]
This CD would seem
to mark the recording debuts of both cellist Jakob Koranyi
and pianist Peter Friis Johansson, both Swedish and both born
in 1983; at least I could not find any evidence to the contrary.
If so, this is an auspicious debut indeed. Koranyi has chosen
ambitious repertoire for his disc and demonstrates that he
is equally adept in performing the modernist Britten and Ligeti
and the classic/romantic Brahms. His pianist Johansson partners
him well in both the Brahms and Britten sonatas, while Koranyi
has the limelight to himself in the Ligeti solo sonata. Koranyi
produces a big, rich sound and yet trims its down to the barest
pianissimo when called for. His technique and intonation are
also secure. In every way, these performances can stand with
The disc opens
with the sonata that Britten wrote for Mstislav Rostropovich
in 1961. This five-movement work is a real test for both cellist
and pianist and contains a great variety of moods from the
dramatic, to the lyrical, and the whimsical. The fourth movement
March with its cello slides high in the instrument’s register
brings out some of the humor of the work. Both cellist and
pianist display all the necessary virtuosity - and then some
- to produce a riveting listening experience. They may not
possess the sheer authority of the composer and Rostropovich,
whose recording remains the benchmark, but they provide a viable
In between the
two duo sonatas, Koranyi performs the solo sonata of György
Ligeti as well as I have ever heard it. In fact, I prefer it
to the version by David Geringas that is included in Teldec’s
authoritative Ligeti Project. Koranyi is slightly slower than
Geringas in the first movement Dialogo, bringing out
the drama of the piece extremely well, and he is just that
much quicker in the following Capriccio. The latter
movement is marked presto con slancio and is to be played
as fast as possible. Koranyi shows that it can be done and
musically as well. It seems strange that this sonata was banned
by the Hungarian authorities after it was written, when it
seems like a logical successor to the music of Bartók and Kodály.
Ligeti, himself, at one time considered it and his other compositions
before he left Hungary as “prehistoric”. However, in his last
compositions (for example, the Violin Concerto), he showed
that he was able to combine some of his most advanced, experimental
techniques with the Hungarian folksong influence that permeated
his works of the ’forties and ’fifties. The sonata is a beautiful
piece that should be a staple in the solo cello repertoire.
The main theme of the work, which pervades the first movement
and returns in the second, has that feeling of ineffable sadness
that is so gripping in Ligeti’s music.
The disc ends with
one of those staples - for piano and cello, in that order -
Brahms’ Sonata in E minor. Johansson and Koranyi are up against
much competition in this work, but even here fare very well.
I compared their recording with one of my favorites, the second
recording by Emanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma (Sony). If Ax and Ma are
more straightforward and achieve a more perfect balance between
the instruments, the newcomers are very convincing in their
own right. Johansson and Koranyi take over two minutes longer
in the first movement, but it never seems slow. They bring
out all the emotion and lyricism without ever going over the
top. Their interpretation exemplifies the young, passionate
Brahms and they judge the dynamics of the movement perfectly.
On the other hand, their second and third movements are somewhat
faster than Ax and Ma. They find a real lightness in the Allegretto
quasi Menuetto that ideally captures the feeling of the
dance. What a contrast to the stultifying account by the Shapiras
that I reviewed for this website earlier! The fugal finale,
a throwback to Bach, is handled with rigor and yet with plenty
of excitement to conclude the disc in winning fashion.
The recorded sound
is all one could ask for: full and present with justice to
both cello and piano. Certainly this is one for all lovers
of cello music and anyone interested in these particular works.
One editorial note: the overall timing on the back of the CD
case is incorrect. It should read 53:59 rather than 63:59.
I would have been happy if these artists had in fact included
an additional ten minutes of music!
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