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Bernhard ROMBERG (1767-1841)
Sonatas for Harp and Cello

Sonata No. 1 in E-flat major (1803?) [26.34]
Sonata No. 2 in F major (1803?)  [25.44]
Sonata No. 3 in B-flat major (1803?) [25.05]
Zsuzsanna Aba-Nagy (harp)
Zsuzsa Szolnoki (cello)
rec. 2015, Unitarius Templom, Budapest, Hungary
GRAMOLA 99216 [77.29]

At the outset, of course, one should not confuse this Romberg with the far better known (to European and American ears) Sigmund Romberg (1887-1951), the Hungarian/American composer of the musical The Desert Song. This CD’s notes point out that this Bernhard Romberg, a contemporary acquaintance of Beethoven, was known as the ‘Paganini of the cello’. His works have survived to the present day and his treatise for his instrument respected as a standard work. He was born in the same year as his cousin, violinist and composer Andreas Romberg, with whom Bernhard embarked on many concert tours within Germany, the Netherlands and France.

Originally these works were designed for performance by alternative instruments – the piano instead of the harp and the violin rather than the cello. It has to be said these sunny pieces are of no profound significance, but rather of passing interest to be enjoyed for their lightness and geniality.

The first of the three sonatas comprising this album begins with a bright, soothing Adagio-Allegro with no deeply-felt utterances but much accent on scales and runs for the cello and decorative harp figurations, with a hint now and then of some rustic folk or nursery melodies. The attractive central Andante has a charming tick-tock-like rhythmic structure that the cello echoes soothingly. Invention flags in the concluding Rondo, however.

The Second Sonata begins with a more emotionally substantial Allegro vivace – a lyrical conversation between the two instruments. This is followed by the rather solemn, stately dance, stated by the cello with harp decorations, which is the central Adagio. This mood is somewhat carried through to the concluding Rondo which is, in the main, pleasant and rollicking – a rondo more memorable than that which ends the First Sonata.

The Third Sonata opening movement glistens delightfully. There is sophistication and charm here and one might think of Mozart or Haydn. The central Andante is another stately dance, while the bright Rondo emulates a Polonaise.
This is a pleasant release and not without its charms; but not really consequential.  Harpist Zsuzsanna Aba-Nagy and cellist Zsuzsa Szolnoki play with charm and sensitivity and make a case to elevate these slight pieces.

It might be useful to point out that the front cover of this album is an 1886 oil painting to be seen in New York’s Brooklyn Museum, entitled ‘The Trio- Fantasie’ by Herbert Denman.

Ian Lace

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