Jean-Baptiste BRÉVAL (1753-1823)
Six Sonatas for cello or violin and basso continuo, Op12 (1783) (arr.
cello and piano by Fedor Amosov)
Fedor Amosov (cello)
Alexey Kurbatov (piano)
rec. March 2011, First Studio, GDRZ Culture, Moscow
CENTAUR CRC3195 [60:41]
You’ll need to arm yourself with a few salient
facts if you come fresh to this Centaur release. Not only is there no
reference to Jean-Baptiste Bréval’s dates of birth or death,
there is also no reference to the year of publication of his six sonatas,
Op.12. In fact there’s hardly anything at all, except a brief,
exuberant comment from cellist Fedor Amosov as to why he likes these
works so much, and then two large biographies of both him and pianist
Alexey Kurbatov. I don’t normally carp on about such things, feeling
the music is more important, but here the sonatas are pretty obscure,
indeed not well known even to admirers of the composer, for whom the
quartets, cello concertos and symphonies concertantes are by
far the most rewarding parts of his work list. So it’s that much
more important to help out the prospective purchaser.
That point duly noted, it surely wouldn’t have hurt Centaur to
reprint a few details of the composer’s life. So the critic will
have to do it instead. Cello soloist and orchestral player, he made
his solo debut in Paris in 1778. He flourished as a composer between
1775 and 1805 - the sonatas were published in 1783 - and gave up performance
in around 1814, to concentrate more on administration. For cellists
the concertos are important but so too is his Traité du violoncello,
Op.42, an instructional treatise of 1804 that remained influential.
The six sonatas were written for cello or violin and basso continuo.
Amosov isn’t the first to arrange them, or some of them, for cello
and piano; he spurned the opportunity to do so for harpsichord, for
reasons which I find sympathetic: he decided they simply worked better
The recording is quite dry and close and catches the cellist’s
frequent sniffs. If you are allergic to this aural phenomenon, you might
have to tame your controls. Otherwise the balance between the two instruments
is reasonable and the playing largely persuasive, though subject to
some frailty when the cello passagework proves too onerous. Of the music,
it’s easiest to say that it travels from the Baroque to the early
Classical throughout the extent of these sonatas. Melodically the writing
is charming, and lyrically things fall easily on the ear. Nothing outstays
its welcome - indeed few movements last longer than four minutes - only
one, in fact. Rhythms are buoyant, each three-movement sonata works
well; dance movements such as Sicilianas and Minuets move forward at
natural-sounding tempo. Except in the long Allegro of No.6, Amosov
proves a willing guide to the works he has arranged. He clearly revels
in the harmonically straightforward but lyrically ingratiating opportunities
afforded him by Bréval, and Kurbatov keeps him necessarily discreet
but effective company.
In short, and despite the imperfections already noted, much here is
brief, but often delightfully so.
Much here is brief, but often delightfully so.