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The Beauty of Two
Edvard GRIEG (1843–1907)
Cello Sonata in A minor, op.36 (1883) [28:00]
Paul HINDEMITH (1895–1963)
Viola Sonata, op.11/4 (1922) [16:41]
Francis POULENC (1899–1963)
Flute Sonata (1957) [11:41]
Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890–1959)
Cello Sonata No.3 (1952) [17:50]
The Kennedy Center Chamber Players (Toshiko Kohno (flute), Daniel Foster (viola), David Hardy (cello), Lambert Orkis (piano))
rec. 14-15 June 2004 (Martinů), 20 June 2004 (Hindemith), 21 June 2004 (Poulenc), Theatre House, Castleton, Virginia, 11 June, 2006, Ayrshire Farm, Upperville, Virginia (Grieg). DDD
DORIAN DSL90705 [74:12]


Experience Classicsonline

It’s always amazed me how Grieg, who was not the world’s best when it came to a grasp of form, could create his large-scale pieces and make them work, musically. This gorgeous Cello Sonata is a case in point. There are times when you feel Grieg’s going through the motions, trying hard to make the music fit the form, and the tunes, he has chosen. The tunes are lovely, but perhaps the piece outstays its welcome by some five minutes or so. Hardy and Orkis give a very persuasive performance – Hardy’s full tone, in particular, is very well caught by the recording – full-blooded and as romantic as one could wish, with a special tenderness in the winsome slow movement.

I have always loved this particular Hindemith Sonata, partly because it’s a wonderfully out of control bit of expressionism and partly because for years it never featured in Hindemith’s work-list so it was a kind of poor relation. Despite its short playing time, it’s a big work, and it’s full of fun; oh yes, Hindemith did have a sense of humour. The best joke is that the second movement is a set of variations which moves effortlessly into the last movement which contains further variations on the same theme. If you don’t know this it’s quite disorientating because at the end you feel there’s still another movement to go, but deep down you know that this is the real end of the piece. Daniel Foster really gets to the heart of the work and he isn’t afraid to play an accompanying role to the piano when necessary, or to make a vehement, hard sound, as at the very end. A marvellous performance.

Poulenc’s Flute Sonata needs no introduction as it is firmly rooted in the repertoire. It’s a wistful work with a blazing finale. I really enjoyed Kohno’s nonchalant approach, making the first movement much more café society and music hall than usual. The slow movement is typical Poulenc; for the most part there’s not too many lines of music, sheer beautiful simplicity. Both performers really held back, making the music truly heart-breaking in its loneliness. Even the big climax was subdued. The finale burst out and was filled with hilarity. Because of the nature of this music it’s the one piece in this collection which is difficult to get to grips with – the other pieces being quite extrovert – but Kohno puts up a most persuasive case for the music, and plays beautifully.

Martinů never seemed to stop writing music. Looking at his catalogue it’s hard to see when he had time to eat, let alone get one work off the table and another one started. There are three Sonatas for cello, the third being the lightest in texture and substance. It’s full of the usual Martinů harmonies and strong, folksong-like, melodies, laid out well for the two instruments, but that’s not to say that this music is a five finger exercise! It’s incredibly difficult to bring off due to the thick piano part but here, with David Hardy and Lambert Orkis, Martinů has found his ideal interpreters.

This is a really enjoyable disk. The performances are all first rate, the recorded sound is bright and clear with superb balance between the players, the notes are very good and the whole presentation is excellent. It’s a slightly quirky programme, which makes it all the more interesting, and one which should not be missed – hopefully, it will encourage more people to investigate Hindemith and Martinů.

Bob Briggs


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