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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Violin Sonata No. 2 in D minor, Op. 121 (1851) [31:39]
Intermezzo from Sonata F.A.E. for Violin and Piano in A minor, (1853) [2:45]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Sonatensatz (Scherzo from the F.A.E. sonata), WoO 2 (1853) [5:34]
Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108 (1886-8) [20:59]
Wie Melodien zieht es mir, Op. 105 No. 1 (1886) [1:44]
Clara SCHUMANN (1819-1896)
Sie liebten sich beide, Op. 13 No. 2 (Heine) (original parts adapted by Christian Poltéra) (1842) [2:29]
Christian Poltéra (cello)
Kathryn Stott (piano)
rec. 2019, Reitstadel Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz, Germany.
BIS BIS2167 SACD [65:17]

These works add to the cello sonata repertoire and carry on the long-established practice of transcribing works. In these cases Christian Poltéras, the subject of many favourable reviews here, has taken two pieces by Schumann and his follower Brahms that were originally for violin and in D Minor. The piano parts by the very distinguished Kathryn Stott remain unaltered. The CD contains the two sonatas with movements that Schumann and Brahms contributed to the F-A-E Sonata and conclude with two songs by Brahms and by Clara Schumann, for whom Brahms had an unrequited passion.

Schumann’s D Minor Violin Sonata works well in its translation to cello but is not as attractive a work as the Brahms. Schumann’s Fünf stücke im volkston, pieces for cello and piano, are old favourites. I have several versions as I do of his Cello Concerto. His Five Romances for cello, composed in 1853 when Schumann was on the foothills of serious mental illness, were destroyed by Clara apparently to protect her husband’s reputation; this despite pleas from Brahms and the Joachim. Fortunately the latter hung onto a copy of the Violin Concerto, premiered in 1937 with much fanfare by Kulenkampff. Schumann learnt to play the cello as a child and had a great affection for the instrument. A good example can be found in the sublime Adagio of his Piano Quartet.

The CD opens with Schumann’s Violin Sonata No. 2 in D minor, Op. 121, quickly completed in 1851. Schumann composed the work shortly after the Third Symphony. It was played by Clara and Wilhelm Wasielewski, the leader of the Düsseldorf orchestra. Its dedication is to Ferdinand David who was also the dedicatee of Mendelssohn’s E minor Violin Concerto. It is, in the main, a very dark and bleak work which one is tempted to put down to Schumann’s mental state at the time. It certainly works well as a Cello Sonata and Poltéra seems fully attuned to conveying Schumann’s message. For the original version, I have Gidon Kremer DG and he is also live, again with Martha Argerich, on Warner; discs to return to.

Brahms Third Violin Sonata is a finer work and transcribes well to this combination. About ten years ago, I attended a recital where his First Violin Sonata was played in a Cello arrangement. It may have been because I know the work so well (I won’t list the various versions I have) but the sound was cacophonous and I got up and left. No such problems here. Brahms had a real love for the cello and it’s a pity he never composed a concerto for it although the slow movement of his Second Piano Concerto has cello obbligato.

This is my first encounter with Christian Poltéra and I’m very impressed. He’s strong when needed and gentle when required. The disc ends with the lovely song by Brahms and an appropriate piece from Clara which shows her still overlooked talents. These make a suitable ending to the recital and serve aptly to be played at the end of a long day. Just a thought: if these two consummate artists are looking for more works, could they not look at other of these composers’ songs?

These re-workings respond well and I will be comparing them with several discs that I have to review of Brahms’ transcriptions. They have set a very high standard indeed.
David R Dunsmore

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