As in my review of this incredibly gifted duo's CD of the Sonatas by
Grieg and Chopin, I also warmly recommend this disc.
The masterly skill and technique is undeniable; the insights into the music
are such that we have to pinch ourselves to remind us that these performers
are, after all, only mortal; the enthusiasm, excellence and excitement of
their playing knows no equal ... and, in addition, they can produce a sensuous
beauty that I never encountered before in 34 years of my own performances
of the cello / piano repertoire. As with the earlier disc, they are at one
... and that is not a reference to their being married to each other, although
they are. Speaking from personal experience, a cello and piano duo can make
the most perfect marriage in music. It does here.
While I am prepared to accept that I am in a minority, one sonata on this
disc does not appeal to me greatly. I have always found César Franck's
music far too repetitive and derivative. Pleasant it certainly is, but how
many times does that tune appear in his cyclic Symphony
in D minor? As in Borodin's Symphony No 2 in B minor, it is done
The Franck Sonata is, however, popular. Perhaps the cyclic form binds
it together so that it becomes as familiar as a regular car journey with
all the well-known roundabouts, landmarks and so on. The main theme of the
Sonata is repeated too often..
The opening allegretto moderato does not make for a good curtain-raiser
for a sonata. The succeeding allegro would have but, you will ask,
does it matter what order the movements are in? The music leans towards salon
music where a small audience of alleged sophisticates and mawkish sentimentalists
dressed up to the nines attend a soirée.
Franck's hybrid style worries me. In his sonata he is trying to be a Bach,
a Beethoven, a Schubert, a Liszt and so on. He has no personal stamp. Perhaps
because of this variety he used the cyclic form to try to bind the work together.
The recitativo-fantasia third movement just does not work as music.
It lacks continuity and, as with the Elgar Cello Concerto, it is
self-indulgent music and, at times, the cello part is clownish. There are
certain effects which do not suit the cello ... Tchaikovsky, Franck and Elgar
used such effects. Nonetheless the Finckel / Han duo make an excellent job
of this material and about five minutes into this movement there is yet another
marvellous example of perfect cello tone.
The finale has the famous tune and is probably the main reason for the works
popularity. But compare it with a great cello sonata, the Op 69 of
Beethoven. It is so obvious. Franck is no Beethoven. And how many times does
that tune appear?
BUT, it is beautifully played.
Edwin Finckel was born in 1917 and is David's father. The Willow Weep
for Me variations is a virtuosic semi-jazz piece and a wonderful tonic
after the Franck. What a gorgeous cello tone as well. And the piece is not
cheap, crude or sleazy.
And to the Richard Strauss Cello Sonata. It is a far better work than
the César Franck. Its outer movements are both allegros. The
first movement has a classical clarity and this splendid duo capitalise here
and ... surprise, surprise ... we have an interesting fugue.
The slow movement is clearly influenced by Mendelssohn, as is the
finale, and then, Strauss draws from Wagner. Although it is a youthful
work and not very original, it is a good piece full of good themes and a
The performances are definite and can only bring lasting delight and admiration.
Again, the sound quality and balance is flawless.