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CD: Forgotten Records

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Cello Sonata No.1 in E minor Op.38 (1862-65) [22:03]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Cello Sonata in F Op.6 (1880-83) [25:31]
Ludwig Hoelscher (cello)
Hans Richter-Haaser (piano)
rec. December 1953, Beethoven-Saal, Hanover

Experience Classicsonline

This CD faithfully reproduces an LP made in the Beethoven-Saal, Hanover in December 1953 by cellist Ludwig Hoelscher (1907-86) and pianist Hans Richter-Haaser (1912-80). Of the two it’s the latter that will be better known, as he made a spirited number of recordings, not least of many Beethoven sonatas, and some have been reissued of late. Hoelscher will be much less well known and is primarily associated with Elly Ney, of whose chamber group he was a member and with whom he made 78s - there’s a first class Schumann Piano Quartet with her and Florizel von Reuter and Walter Trampler - but he also performed extensively with Gieseking and Kempff amongst many elite German musicians. Together Hoelscher and Richter-Haaser recorded sonatas by Beethoven, Pfitzner, Mendelssohn and Hindemith, as well as other smaller pieces.
Of the two it’s the pianist who emerges with the greater credit in the sonatas of Brahms and Strauss performed here. The Brahms is by some ways the weaker traversal. Hoelscher’s tone is very strange at the start of the opening movement, his vibrato woefully slow - though he was barely 46 - and making what I can only describe as an ‘elderly’ sound. He plays in a staid and unexciting way, and barely manages to keep a singing legato for any length of time. The ensemble is good, the balance bad, with the piano covering Hoelscher more often than is healthy. Richter-Haaser is very much more the athletic partner. Things improve in the slow movement where there’s some nice phraseology in the B section but the dynamics are very constricted recording-wise. There’s a greater sense of abandon in the fugal section of the finale but Hoelscher’s phrasing elsewhere is short-breathed. No one at the time who had their Tortelier/Engel or Fournier/Backhaus, much less their old Feuermann/van der Pas 78 set, would have swapped for this sub-par affair.
But, as noted, the Strauss is better. For some reason Hoelscher lets go a bit, though his tonal resources are hardly the acme of variety; all too one-dimensional, at least as recorded. There’s greater urgency in the finale where Hoelscher finally gets his boots on, but he’s again over-parted by Richer-Haaser’s powerful pianism.

There are no notes, just a simple track-listing and reference to websites for more information. This disc is also necessarily very short measure at 47 minutes. Despite my critical tone regarding the cellist, the transfer itself is praiseworthy.
Jonathan Woolf 








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