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Russian Cello Sonatas
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Sonata in G minor (1901) [36.59]
Vocalise (1912) [5.55]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Sonata in C major (1949-50) [25.20]
Hee-Young Lim (cello)
Nathalia Milstein (piano)
rec. 2018, Leibnitz Saal, Hannover, Germany
SONY CLASSICAL 80358118497 [68.14]

Rachmaninov’s Cello Sonata, completed in November 1901, was one of his first major works written during the period of his recovery from the mental block he experienced after the disastrous première of his First Symphony in 1897.

It is supremely melodic, as might be expected from Rachmaninov. It is cast in four movements on a grand symphonic scale. Both cello and piano play equally important roles and because of this the work is frequently referenced as the Sonata in G minor for Cello and Piano

One of the many joys of this album is Tully Potter’s notes not the least of which is because he includes the attitudes to, and feelings about, the music expressed by the cello soloist, Hee-Young Lim. She observes: “I always thought that despite the beautiful melodies, it was the Fifth Piano Concerto accompanied by the cello. I wished we had as many notes as the piano had! However, I now truly enjoy playing this sonata, which represents great chamber music by Rachmaninov.” Tully Potter adds that she agrees that it seems to get better and better as the Sonata proceeds. Hee-Young Lim’s performance is technically highly accomplished and intensely and tenderly expressive. She clearly loves playing the Vocalise too. Pianist, Nathalia Milstein, provides a brilliant partnership, rising to its formidable challenges with aplomb. She most assuredly deserves equal billing strength on the front cover of this release.

The Prokofiev Cello Sonata in C, is cast in three movements (thanks to Rostropovich’s help – he gave the first public performance with Sviatoslav Richter on March 1st 1950). Tully comments, “The work has cyclic elements; the first and third movements contain an abundant lyricism whereas the the central one is witty and rhythmical, recalling the composer’s ballet music.” Hee-Young Lim says of this Sonata, “It has a greater range for the cello, with more technical variety. I like the fact that it has a lot of fantasy, like a fairy tale. I feel I am telling a story.”

A very welcome release combining two well contrasted sonatas performed with polished nuance and beauty.

Ian Lace

Previous review: Robert Cummings

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