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Dutch Cello Sonatas – Volume 7
The Maastricht-Paris Connection

Joseph HOLLMAN (1852-1927)
Pourquoi? [2:10]
Berceuse [2:55]
Alexander BATTA (1816-1902)/Julius BENEDICT (1804-1885)
Robert le Diable (1840) [18:50]
Émile WESLY (1858-1926)
Rêverie d’automne [3:58]
Andrée BONHOMME (1905-1982)
Sonatine [9:39]
Lamento [6:32]
In memoriam [3:31]
Souvenir de Berck [2:05]
Sérénade [2:53]
Andante religioso [3:16]
Alexander BATTA
Il Trovatore [14:43]
Extase [4:59]
Doris Hochscheid (cello)
Frans van Ruth (piano)
rec. 2015, Konzerthaus der Abtei Marienmünster, Germany

For reasons that are not clear, at least to me, Dutch classical music has never produced a great composer. This is despite the artistic heritage of the country, and the longstanding renown of the Concertgebouw Orchestra. It is evidently not for the lack of trying, given that enough works for cello and piano by Dutch composers have been found to fill seven CDs. Jonathan Woolf reviewed the previous release in this series.

As you can see, there are no actual sonatas on this recording, and the majority are works that are best described as miniatures. It is worth noting that for each composer presented here, writing music was much less important in their working life than performing it, or the case of Wesly, writing about it.  The subtitle for the disc - The Maastricht-Paris Connection - refers to the birthplace of each of the composers, and their final career destination.

Joseph Hollman was one of the most prominent concert cellists of his generation. He studied in St Petersburg (with Karl Davidov), Brussels and Paris, toured widely, and performed with Saint-Saëns and Ysaÿe. The former wrote his double concerto La muse et le poète for Hollman and Ysaÿe. Surprisingly then, the six works are not intended for showing off virtuosity, and are essentially salon pieces.

Like Hollman, Alexander Batta was a prominent concert cellist. He was educated in Brussels and spent the majority of his life and career in Paris, where he was an acquaintance of Berlioz and a performance partner of Liszt. His two works featured here, the longest pieces by far, are fantasies based on operas by Meyerbeer and Verdi. Such works were very popular in France at the time, and perhaps a better knowledge of the operas might have helped, but I found them to be the weakest points of this recording, especially Robert le Diable, which I found to be trite, repetitive and tedious.

Émile Wesly was foremost an arts critic, who dabbled in composition. His Rêverie is again a salon piece, dedicated to Hollman, and the best that can be said of it is that it doesn’t outstay its welcome.

I have left the best until last. Andrée Bonhomme was taught by Darius Milhaud in Paris, though her style is certainly not that of her teacher. Her three works presented here stand out as serious and significant pieces, especially given what comes before and after them on the recording. They bring to mind the refined and delicate sound-world of Gabriel Fauré. I will certainly return to them, but I can’t say the same for the others.

I don’t know whether any more releases are planned for this series; given the lack of actual sonatas (and quality), I wondered whether I could hear the bottom of the barrel being scraped. Certainly no criticism can be levelled at the two performers or the production team.  My disappointment with much of the music presented here hasn't deterred me from exploring earlier releases in this series.

David Barker



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