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Drei Stucke fur Violoncello und Klavier (1891) [7:10]
Cello Sonata in A minor (1894) [29:25]
Cello Sonata Op.39 (1890) [20:37]
Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)
Tanzlied des Pierrot from Die Tote Stadt (1920) [4:02]
Four Pieces from Viel Lärmen un Nichts Op.11 (1920) [14:25]
Romance-Impromptu from the film Deception (1946) [3:11]
Raphael Wallfisch (cello)
John York (piano)
rec. May 2006, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth
NIMBUS NI 5806 [78:53]
These were first ever recordings of Zemlinsky’s Sonata and Three Pieces. The latter were written when the composer was twenty for the eminent Friedrich Buxbaum. The first is a perky Humoreske, appropriately energetic, and sporting a lyric B section spun on an eloquent cantilena. The second is a Lied, raptly gentle and evincing a sure control of expressive material. Wallfisch plays this with veiled tonal qualities, which brings it fully to life. The final piece is a Tarantella with a saucily abrupt ending. Stefan Zweig may have written, in The World of Yesterday, that in Vienna greybeards were admired and you were still very much a child until twenty five – but Zemlinsky cocks a genteel snook at his elders here.
The Sonata however is stronger stuff, again written for Buxbaum. Lasting half an hour, written in three movements, it conjoins lyric intensity with motivic turbulence and a modicum of Brahmsian tautness too. This torrid lyricism is a feature of the work, the cello either ruminating or, as in the Andante, buzzing away over the piano’s strong masculine chording. The Allegretto finale features entertaining conversations between the two protagonists. There are guitar imitations, there’s dance vivacity - albeit in a rather heavy, over-saturated way - and a delicious quiet sunlit coda. It’s a work with the confidence to take a few holes out of expected norms. Not a masterpiece, as critics are wont pontifically to announce, but well deserving of the rescue act Wallfisch has wrought on it, alongside his equally assiduous and sympathetic colleague, John York.
The Goldmark Sonata was written a few years earlier but this is the work of a man of sixty, not twenty-three. It has an elegant, noble, broadly unruffled profile. It’s fluent music, beautifully distributed for the two instruments and with a nostalgia-laden reverie in the central movement of high lyric simplicity. Not for Goldmark, Zemlinsky’s rictus moments.
The final composer to be represented here is Korngold. Wallfisch has arranged the Tanzlied des Pierrot from Die Tote Stadt and it sounds splendid in this new guise – a romantic reverie in this performance rather than something more athletic, if that’s what you prefer; I prefer a bit more get up and go. The cellist has also worked his arranging wand over the Four Pieces from Viel Lärmen un Nichts. The second piece is especially well characterised with its gruff profile intact, but few fiddle players would draw out the Garden Scene as slowly as Wallfisch does. After the ebullience of the Hornpipe the disc closes with the tender Romance-Impromptu from the film Deception.
The Zemlinsky pieces were read from the manuscripts or copies of them. These recordings are thus exploratory and wholly successful, excellently engineered and annotated. Admirers of the Viennese ethos they exemplify should make their acquaintance.
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