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Zoltán KODÁLY (1882-1967)
Sonata for Solo Cello. Op. 8 (1915) [32:24]
Serge PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Sonata for Solo Cello in C sharp minor, Op. 134 (1953) [7:10]
Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
Sonata for Solo Cello, Op. 25. No. 3 (1922) [10:04]
Hans Werner HENZE (1926-2012)
Sérénade (1949) [6:42]
Daniel MÜLLER-SCHOTT (b.1976)
Cadenza (2018) [3:08]
George CRUMB (b.1929)
Sonata for Solo Cello (1955) [10:02]
Pablo CASALS (1876-1973)
Song of the Birds, for Solo Cello (1939) [2:57]
Daniel Müller-Schott (cello)
rec. 2017-19, Studio 2 Bayerischer Rundfunk, Munich.
ORFEO C984191 [72:45]

This varied recital is dedicated by Daniel Müller-Schott to the memory of his father, Matthias Müller. As David Barker stated in his review of Haydn concertos and Beethoven arrangements (Orfeo), Müller-Schott (see interview) is one of the most highly regarded cellists of his generation. He was born in 1976 and has numerous recordings under his belt. His standard repertoire discs include the Beethoven sonatas with Angela Hewitt on Hyperion (Volume 1). I own and enjoy Volume 2 in that series including the wonderful three “Variations”. He has also tackled the lesser-known, for example, the Raff concertos on Tudor (review). He recorded the Mozart trios with Anne-Sophie Mutter and André Previn (review). The present collection of solo works appealed to me based on what I’d heard from him previously and my great love of the cello, an instrument I once unsuccessfully tried to learn to play.

Kodály’s Sonata for Solo Cello is by some margin the longest work here and certainly requires concentrated listening. There are helpful notes on the works by Matthias Denys who explains that the work is constructed in the classical manner of three movements, Allegro-Adagio-Allegro. One special feature is the “scordatura”; the returning of the two low strings a semitone deeper, thus almost achieving an orchestral effect. This work has been recorded by a fair few cellists and I have Zara Nelsova in the large and very interesting Decca Sound-The Mono Years reviewed by Jonathan Woolf. This work is amongst the most substantial for solo Cello since Bach’s Suites. It’s like a roller-coaster which Müller-Schott negotiates very skilfully; certainly a work to return to.

The programme continues with Prokofiev’s wistful Solo Sonata, written shortly before he died and completed as just one movement by Vladimir Blok in 1972. The more cheerful second theme, with hints of Bach, comes from his great friend Mstislav Rostropovich. I found it very fine and is empathetically played. Hindemith’s Sonata was written in one evening in 1922 at the Donaueschingen Music Festival as part of a competition for cello sonatas. Hindemith has a reputation of being a “dry” composer but I thought it was a rewarding work and again the playing is exceptional. The cello so often seems to bring out a moody air of melancholy. Without a piano accompaniment it can seem lacking in variety. The Serenade by Hans Werner Henze was written when he was 23, for Shakespeare’s “Much Ado about Nothing”, a favourite, particularly Kenneth Branagh’s film. It’s difficult to imagine more different incidental music than this. Interestingly, Henze was studying Schoenberg’s twelve-tone technique with René Leibowitz (1913-1972), whose Beethoven Symphony cycle with the RPO (1961-62) reissued on Scribendum is very highly regarded. It’s a case here of admiring the cellist’s technique and finding the musical language more melodic than might have been feared. It’s certainly not easy listening.

Daniel Müller-Schott’s “Cadenza” is intended as an encore. It’s in the tradition of works that have been added to other soloists’ programmes. Notwithstanding its short duration it certainly has variety and shows a talented composer emerging. I found avant-garde George Crumb’s “Sonata for Solo Cello” much more accessible than feared. Perhaps my own eclectic taste helps to appreciate the rhythms which have some jazz influence; a pleasant surprise. The programme ends with a composition from the master cellist of the first half of the twentieth century, Pablo Casals. “Song of the birds” is an old Christmas carol from Catalonia, celebrating Christ’s birth. After 1939, Catalonian Casals, in exile, performed this piece at the end of his concerts. It was played at the UN in 1971 when Casals received the Nobel Peace Prize. Müller-Schott concludes this solo recital understanding performing it as Casals’ “personal and enormously moving message of peace to all of us”, one that persists. No more apt work could have been performed. It is a very fine tribute, both to Casals and to the recital’s dedicatee, his father Matthias Müller.

David R Dunsmore

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