Gabriel FAURÉ (1845–1924)
Sicilienne Op. 78 (1898) [3:31]
Cello Sonata No. 2 in G minor Op. 117 (1921) [18:25]
Après un rêve (arr. P. Casals) (1878) [2:55]
Elegie Op. 24 (1880) [6:18]
Romance Op. 69 (1894) [3:52]
Berceuse Op. 16 (arr. for cello and piano) (1879) [3:09]
Papillon Op. 77 (1884) [3:02]
Sérénade Op. 98 (publ. 1908) [3:22]
Cello Sonata No. 1 in D minor Op. 109 (1917) [19:19]
Pavane Op. 50 (arr. H. Busser) (1887) [5:39]
Ina-Esther Joost Ben-Sasson (cello); Allan Sternfield (piano)
rec. Henry Crown Concert Hall, Jerusalem Theater, Jerusalem, Israel 4, 18 May 2007
NAXOS 8.570545 [69:32]

It’s unusual for a label to be in competition with itself, but that is in effect what’s happening here. Naxos has already issued a recording of the cello music (see review) by Maria Kliegel and Nina Tichman, a release with which I was in cautious sympathy. And whilst there were elements about it, such as the Second Sonata, I found less compelling, or indeed not wholly convincing, it strikes me as immeasurably superior to this new release which covers identical ground – except that it adds Busser’s arrangement of the Pavane for good measure.

In this respect, regrettably, I must agree to an extent with a fellow reviewer on this site who has already submitted a negative account of his experiences with the downloadable version some time ago. Compared with Kliegel’s lissom, consistently quicker playing Ina-Esther Joost Ben-Sasson and Allan Sternfield sound relatively unengaged in the First Sonata. The static and rather columnar approach lacks tonal variety, and the line is more diffuse, especially in the slow movement. When it comes to the Second Sonata’s more impenetrable moments we find that though her tone is warm and her sound attractively attuned to the Gallic ethos, it’s less mobile an account than is ideal. The lighter quality of Kliegel keeps things moving, though even she is hardly ideal, whereas the newcomers get bogged down in the slow movement once again; things really should be better shaped; there’s a fatal submerging of the rhythmic emphases to propel the line.

The smaller pieces fare rather better. The Sicilienne is quite direct, but more static and noble than at all playful. Otherwise her playing is not unsympathetic though still rather staid in its approach, and though the duo’s ensemble is good, one doesn’t feel very much overt affection for the music. It’s kept at a reserve. Perhaps part of the problem lies in her rather too all-purpose tonal resources and the vibrato-rich playing – let’s take the Sérénade, Op.98 as a good example, which presents a more blurry seigniorial approach.

Given the somewhat cloudy recording quality, and performances of the sonatas that remain for much of the time static, I’m afraid this recording doesn’t make great claims on the collector.

Jonathan Woolf

Relatively unengaged, static and lacks tonal variety… see Full Review