One of the most grown-up review sites around

51,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider


colourful imaginative harmony
Renate Eggebrecht violin

Brahms Symphony 3
Dvorak Symphony 8
9 cello sonatas
Piano Music

Clara Schumann
piano concerto

Asmik Grigorian

Breathtaking Performance
controversial staging
Review Westbrook
Review Hedley n/a
Every lover of Salome should see this recording
Mullenger interpretation

Vraiment magnifique!

Quite splendid

Winning performances

Mahler Symphony 8
a magnificent disc

a huge talent

A wonderful disc

Weinberg Symphonies 2 & 21
A handsome tribute!

Roth’s finest Mahler yet

Mahler 9 Blomstedt
Distinguished performance


Support us financially by purchasing this from

Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Works for Cello and Piano
Variations concertantes Op. 17, MWV Q 19 (1829) [8:37]
Cello Sonata No. 1 in B flat major, Op. 45, MWV Q 27 (1838) [22:34]
Song without Words for Cello & Piano, Op. 109, MWV Q34 (1847) [3:56]
Assai tranquillo in B Minor, MWV Q 25 (1835) [1:57]
Cello Sonata No. 2 in D major, Op. 58, MWV Q 32 (1843) [23:15]
Christian PoltÚra (cello)
Ronald Brautigam (piano)
rec. 2016, Reitstadel, Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz, Germany
Reviewed as a 16-Bit download
BIS BIS2187 SACD [60:18]

One of my Classics teachers at school used to punish us for lacklustre homework by getting us to translate many of his rather singular prejudices into Greek or Latin prose. Many of these reflected his artistic enthusiasms and one such punishment I remember receiving was the tricky sentence “Mendelssohn composed more masterpieces in his youth than Mozart”. I suspect this was his way of getting us to dig that little bit deeper into the world of music and I can trace my affection for the blessed Felix right back to that particular linguistic challenge. What a joy it is then to spend an hour or so in the company of that master’s cello works; it is an oeuvre that is guaranteed to kindle a warm glow inside and broadly covers the entirety of his tragically short-lived career. There are many fine accounts of these works; two I would certainly recommend are those by the Watkins brothers Paul and Huw (with conventional piano - CHAN 10701 reviewed here) and Stephen Isserlis and Melvyn Tan (with fortepiano – RCA Red Seal 09026 62553-2 nla)

I would argue that this sparkling account from PoltÚra and Brautigam adopts a kind of middle ground – the cellist has furnished his 1711 Strad with gut strings, while Brautigam performs on a copy of an 1830 Pleyel instrument (on which he recently recorded the Songs Without Words for BIS). Both Sonatas and Variations are characterised by pretty swift tempi, not unlike the Isserlis/Tan recording. The sounds of the two instruments complement each other delightfully, and duly illuminate the originality of Mendelssohn’s inspiration.

All three extended works here were inspired by the composer’s younger brother Paul who was a gifted amateur cellist. The Variations Concertantes are another miraculous product of the composer’s late youth, a concise mini-masterpiece whose classical poise impetuously splinters into something quite different in its concluding variation. The account here is quite devoid of ego and suffused with the spirit of shared responsibility. PoltÚra’s playing is lithe and agile and beautifully complemented by Brautigam’s flexibility. There is a striking similarity between Mendelssohn’s theme and that of the fourth movement (the Theme and Variations) of Schubert’s Trout Quintet.

At times in the B flat major Sonata, PoltÚra’s playing is so tactful listeners could be forgiven for thinking that the recorded balance actually favours the pianist, but this is likely to be due to the cellist’s wonderful appreciation of dynamic contrast and the actual sound of Brautigam’s instrument. These features become clearer as the work proceeds, while the songful quality that pervades the sonata is omnipresent in this account. The delightful final Allegro Assai eventually unfolds into a sonata-rondo that recalls the first movement before it gently and hauntingly melts away. This is wonderfully managed by the performers here.

Most recordings of Mendelssohn’s cello music nowadays routinely include the two miniatures recorded here, needless to say there is nothing remotely routine about PoltÚra and Brautigam’s deeply felt accounts of the late Song Without Words, Op 109 (the only one from the set that involves another instrument) and the brief, emotionally-ambiguous Assai tranquillo.
The four movement Sonata No 2 is a work of Mendelssohn’s maturity, which represents a considerable advance in confidence and technique compared to its sibling. PoltÚra’s delivery of the heroic theme in the first movement is impassioned and assertive though utterly devoid of histrionics; he extracts some gorgeous, ripe colours from his instrument here while amply conveying the restless quality of Mendelssohn’s inspiration. Similarly, in sonic terms the pizzicatos of the second movement are wonderfully complemented by Brautigam’s copy Pleyel; the quiet playing in this movement is exceptional. The apparent novelty of the textures as captured here epitomises the adventurousness of Mendelssohn’s harmonic experiments. This sense of bold exploration continues into the final two movements; the piano arpeggios of the slow movement concealing a rather Bachian chorale and recitative-type design; the pithy notes suggest this panel functions as a prelude to the beautifully proportioned finale.

The engineering is exemplary as is usual from this source. The sound is as light as air yet splendidly detailed. Much as I have enjoyed PoltÚra’s earlier recordings of Honegger, Schoeck and Frank Martin (among others) it has been an absolute delight to hear him in Mendelssohn. Brautigam is a deeply insightful musician whose contribution goes way beyond accompaniment. I anticipate spending many happy hours in the company of this lovely disc.

Richard Hanlon



We are currently offering in excess of 51,000 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger