Notes and Editorial Reviews
Cello Sonata in D,
Cello Sonata No. 1 in D,
Cello Sonata in F,
Peter-Philipp Staemmler (vc); Hansjacob Staemmler (pn)
GENUIN 10168 (67: 50)
Calling themselves the Duo Staemmler, Peter-Philipp and brother Hansjacob are recent winners of the German Music Competition. With that prize comes support for concert appearances, professional engagements, and recording contracts, of which this debut album appears to be the first fruit.
All of the works chosen for this program have of course enjoyed previous outings on disc; in the case of the Beethoven, at least 80 in what some would maintain are definitive readings. But the Strauss and Miaskovsky sonatas have respectable representation on disc as well. Only the Lutos?awski lags behind, but is not entirely absent from the catalog. It would be naive to imagine that any cello-piano duo could fill an entire disc with works so obscure that no one else has recorded them; and the Catch-22 is that if players unknown to the public did manage to put together such a program it’s likely that their efforts would be largely ignored due to the unfamiliarity of both the repertoire and the performers. So the fallback is in the above headnote, a program that mixes the overdone, the medium done, and the underdone, and hopes for the best.
The dilemma for the critic is to decide whether it’s fair to compare the performance of two bright, eager, and obviously talented youngsters in a work like Beethoven’s late and last cello sonata to performances by the seasoned sages, or to simply take it on its own merits without reference to other versions. I decided on the latter course.
By any account, the Staemmlers acquit themselves with distinction. Peter-Philipp’s cello glows with a beautifully rounded, burnished tone that gives evidence of only the slightest coarsening in faster, more difficult passages. There is a real rapport, almost palpable, between the siblings, with piano and cello handing off their exchanges in perfectly dovetailed dialogue. This all happens in the Beethoven.
Miaskovsky’s D-Major Cello Sonata is the first of two sonatas he wrote for the instrument. It’s both an early work—one of his very earliest chamber works, in fact—and a much later one, having been written in 1911 and then revised 24 years later, in 1935. If you’re not familiar with the piece and you’re looking for cello and piano work in romantic overdrive, the Miaskovsky is your ticket. Again, as in the Beethoven, the Staemmler brothers give a deeply committed performance.
It’s at this point, however, that I must make note of an unusual indexing error on the CD. Ordinarily, when such screwups occur, they turn out to be misprints on the track listing page of the booklet, but this one is on the disc itself, which, in my experience, is quite rare. Track numbers for the three movements of the Beethoven sonata are correctly printed as 1 through 3. But on the CD, it appears that the Beethoven has four movements, for the readout on the CD player displays Beethoven for tracks 1 through 4. From this point forward, the printed track listing in the booklet is one track out of sync with the index on the disc.
Of course, anyone familiar with the music would not mistake the first movement of the Miaskovsky sonata, which really and truly does begin on track 4, for the last movement of the Beethoven, even though the CD player’s track index says “Beethoven.” Nor do I imagine anyone would think they were still listening to Miaskovsky come track 6, though the CD player’s track index says that is what it is, when in fact it is the Lutos?awski. It’s understandable how this could happen as a booklet printing error, but less so as an indexing error on the actual disc.
For those not familiar with Lutos?awski’s
, the following description may be an oversimplification, but if Ravel’s
may be understood as a composed crescendo, Lutos?awski’s piece might be understood as a composed accelerando, rising in pitch and gaining in momentum over its six-minute span. Dedicated to the memory of Polish musicologist Stefan Jarocinski,
was written in 1981. The Staemmlers trace its mounting tension with a real sense of urgency.
Richard Strauss’s masterly and magnificent F-Major Cello Sonata rounds out this thoughtful and well-balance recital. The Staemmlers, Peter-Philipp and Hansjacob, are definitely worth keeping one’s ears peeled for. This is a talented duo with an undoubtedly bright future ahead of it. Other than the aforementioned indexing snafu, the recording is excellent and recommended.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Works on This Recording
Grave by Witold Lutoslawski
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1981; Poland
Venue: Siemensvilla, Berlin, Germany
Length: 6 Minutes 3 Secs.
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