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Henriëtte BOSMANS (1895-1952)
Cello Sonata (1919) [25:02]
Chanson [2:29]
Arietta [3:00]
Three Impressions (1926) [14:37]
Leah Plave (cello)
Dan Sato (piano)
rec. 2019, Pollack Hall, Montreal
Private release [45:09]

The focus of this privately produced disc is the Dutch composer Henriëtte Bosmans. She was the daughter of the principal cellist of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, Henri Bosmans who, because of his early death – he died when she was barely six months old – would have performed for less than a year for the newly established conductor of the orchestra, Mengelberg. Henriëtte became a well-known pianist, playing 22 times with the Concertgebouw between 1929 and 1949.

As a composer she was taught by Jan Willem Kersbergen, Cornelis Dopper and Willem Pijper, and with the last named she seems to have maintained a friendship, as she did with Benjamin Britten. The notes don’t overlook the fact, insignificant now, but not then, that she was bisexual. I’m not sure if the Cello Sonata heard in this recording was dedicated to her long-standing cello partner between 1920-27 and prominent lesbian, Frieda Belinfante – who premiered Bosman’s Second Cello Concerto - but there is a close association, given the Sonata heard in this disc was composed in 1919 – though the brief notes don’t provide this detail. I would hardly labour the sexuality point were it not for the fact that that the disc’s promotional material talks up the ‘queer’ nature of Bosman’s achievement given she remained in Holland during the Nazi occupation.

The Cello Sonata is a four-movement work with an imposing superstructure and heady Romanticist affiliations. The piano part, as one may expect given her excellence as a pianist, is strongly defined and an assuredly equal partner, the first movement moving from eloquent confidence to brief but telling pockets of melancholy. The Allegretto that follows is somewhat unsettled and like the slow movement – which is the briefest of the four, taut but not overtly introverted – showing Francophile associations. There are a few impressionist hues embedded in the finale, and this stylistically moves away somewhat from the fulsome romanticism largely to be heard elsewhere; it doesn’t however unbalance the work.

The Chanson and Arietta offer charming, salon-like pleasures but the Three Impressions offer more in the way of interpretative ballast. There’s a very strong element of chinoiserie to the first of the three, a Cortège, and the result is vibrant and exciting. The central movement is Nuit calme, profoundly redolent of Debussy whilst the final panel is En Espagne which is not the kitsch-fest one may have been expecting but is exuberant, treading lightly over temptations for Hispanic cliché.

The young team of Leah Plave and Dan Sato are committed exponents of Bosmans’ music. There’s strong competition from the established pairing of Doris Hochscheid (cello) and Frans van Ruth (piano) both of whom I have admired in their series of Dutch cello sonatas, and who play the Sonata and Impressions, omit the two small pieces, but add the sonata by Dirk Schäfer and the Three Pieces by Gérard Hekking (AUD9031703). I feel the older pairing, not least because they take a formally faster tempo in the first movement, offer that bit more but if your focus is Bosmans the newcomer makes a lot of sense, especially with such attractive performances and recording.

Jonathan Woolf

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