La Naissance d’un Nouveau Monde
Erwin SCHULHOFF (1894-1942)
Cello Sonata, Op.17 (1914) [24:23]
Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
Cello Sonata, H125 (1913-17) [23:51]
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Madrigal (1915) [4:54]
Joseph BOULNOIS (1884-1918)
Cello Sonata (1917) [24:45]
Jacques de la PRESLE (1888-1969)
Guitarre (1915) [2:50]
Thomas Duran (cello)
Nicolas Mallarte (piano)
rec. January 2014, location unknown
HORTUS 705 [81:08]

Hortus’ Great War series (see below) continues with a disc devoted to cello music. The most interesting discoveries are the sonatas by Joseph Boulnois – especially as he is best known as an organ composer – and Erwin Schulhoff, though some may well have encountered his 1914 Sonata in alternative recordings. Frank Bridge’s Cello Sonata is the third in the triumvirate of sonatas, and there are two small pieces to round out the programme.

The Schulhoff is a very early work, written when he was barely twenty. He wrote it in four classical movements just before he was sent to the Front. It’s an energetic, late Romantic affair sporting some Franckian influence but offers evidence of unbridled lyrical nostalgia in the slow movement that derives in part via his studies with Reger. The jaunty elements to be found in the scherzo, and the genial but overlong material in the finale, are evidence of a rather unformed talent. And it’s undeniable that Schulhoff had yet to put any kind of personal stamp on his music – to such an extent that you would not recognise this sonata at all if you know the later works. It stands as an innocent introduction to this War disc, one that progressively darkens. If you want it put in an all-Schulhoff context then a fine solution is on BIS679 where Torleif Thedéen and Stefan Bojsten do it proud.

Boulnois, a singing coach and organist in Paris, was a medical orderly but didn’t survive the war dying in October 1918. He dedicated his sonata to Gérard Hekking. It’s a fine work, as long as the Schulhoff but more sophisticated, moving from urgency to refinement with rapidity. A highlight is the lovely song that runs through the second movement – not inappropriate given he was a singing coach – that reaches down to the cello’s lower register. The pizzicati and rhythmic games of the scherzo may seem to allude to Debussy’s Sonata whilst the elegant march themes of the finale end the work in confident spirit – an affirmative brio that proves optimistic and victorious.

The documentation is in two minds as to the spelling of his name and the date of his death but Frank Bridge takes an honoured place in the roll call of composers here. His Cello Sonata is played with flowing lyricism in its early passages and a keen awareness of its melancholy. It’s not quite as quick as the performance by the Watkins Brothers on Nimbus NI5699, nor as urgent and intense as the colouristically vivid Rostropovich in his traversals with Britten and Dedukhin but is largely successful. There are two smaller pieces as well. Granados’s Madrigal is suitably solemn and dignified, a product of 1915, the year before his violent death. And then there is Guitare by the little-known Jacques de la Presle, who served as a stretcher bearer. Other works of his are far weightier but the selected one is a salon effusion.

The Duran-Mallarte duo is an established ensemble and it sounds like one. Their playing is rock solid and sensitively shaped. Duran hasn’t quite the wide range of colours as other better-known players but his instincts are focused securely on musical interpretation. The recorded sound is clear, somewhat bright but whilst lacking some warmth, more than listenable.

Jonathan Woolf

Other releases in this series
701 Magnard cello & piano
702 1913 - Au Carrefour de la Modernité
703 Hommage Maurice Marechal
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