Kurt WEILL (1900-1950)
Cello Sonata (1920) [25:52]
Hans PFITZNER (1869-1949)
Cello Sonata in F sharp minor, Op. 1 (1890) [27:35]
Samuel BARBER (1910-1981)
Cello Sonata, Op. 6 (1932, rev. 1936) [17:10]
Quirine Viersen (cello)
Silke Avenhaus (piano)
rec. 6-8 June 2006, Frits Philipszaal, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
ET'CETERA KTC1315 [70:37]
Dutch cellist Quirine Viersen and German pianist Silke Avenhaus decision to record these sonatas was a judicious one. All three are early works and late-Romantic in character. They are appealing and while plumbing no great emotional depths display much promise for the mature works that were to come in future years. Here Viersen plays a beautifully toned 1715 Joseph Guarnerius Filius Andreae instrument.
German born Kurt Weill is best known for his stage works especially for his collaborations with dramatist Bertolt Brecht. Weill’s most famous score The Threepenny Opera premièred in 1928 at Berlin has become an enduring international success. Weill composed extensively outside music theatre. There is a considerable number of scores that were not designed for the stage including this Cello Sonata commenced during Weill’s time as a pupil of Humperdinck. Cast in three movements the opening Allegro ma non troppo is played with a dreamy and lyrical expression and an appealing rocking quality. Repeatedly disrupting the prevailing calm are some short stormy passages. More wistful writing is brought out in the Andante expressivo although this increases in dramatic weight and tension. Spikily rhythmic and anxiety-laden music for the cello combines with percussive writing for the piano. The mood of prickly restlessness quickly gives way to calm, highly romantic writing. This pattern is repeated to conclude on an unworried and soothing note.

Hans Pfitzner was actually Russian by birth and spent most of his life in Germany. His greatest and best known work by some distance is Palestrina a musical legend in three acts. In his long career Pfitzner wrote a number of works that featured the cello including this Cello Sonata. It is a product of the final year of his studies at the Konservatorium Musikakademie, Frankfurt. Cast in four movements thisis certainly the most immediately appealing score on the disc. In the substantial opening movement marked Sehr bewegt Viersen and Avenhaus underline stormy and highly passionate writing interspersed with short reflective passages. The attractively melodious Sehr langsam und breit makes an immediate impact. Short in length the Scherzo marked So schnell als möglich is vibrant and joyful and gallops along without a care in the world. The fleet-footed Nicht zu schnell, mit Humor is played with witty vibrancy and tremendous energy.
Samuel Barber is best known for his Adagio for strings which is an arrangement from the second movement of his String Quartet, Op. 11. Barber wrote about a dozen other chamber scores including this Cello Sonata. It was written during his final year as a student at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. Barber appeared as pianist with cellist Orlando Cole to give the première in 1933 at New York City.Designed in sonata-form the Allegro ma non troppo is taken very briskly. This is squally writing stippled with soothing passages. The passionately yearning Adagio quickly shifts into a frantic dance-like section at 1:07-2:06. Windswept surges of emotion prevail in the Finale, Allegro appassionato although remission is to be found in a central introspective section. There is a relatively small number of recordings of the Barber sonata. However, I admire the sympathetic account played by Ralph Kirshbaum and Roger Vignoles recorded in 1988 at All Saints, Petersham, Surrey on Virgin Classics VC 7 91083-2.
Full credit must go to Viersen and Avenhaus who demonstrate vibrant spontaneity. Their tempi are commendably chosen which complements a natural and responsive approach. All in all a strong case is made for these youthful and lesser known scores and the sound quality is first rate.
Michael Cookson 

A strong case is made for these youthful and lesser known scores. 

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