WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Faure: Cello Sonatas / Ben-Sasson, Sternfield

Faure / Ben-sasson / Sternfield
Release Date: 02/23/2010 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8570545  
Composer:  Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Ina-Esther Joost Ben-SassonAllan Sternfield
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Low Stock: Currently 3 or fewer in stock. Usually ships in 24 hours, unless stock becomes depleted.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews



FAURÉ Music for Cello and Piano Ina-Esther Joost Ben-Sasson (vc); Allan Sternfield (pn) NAXOS 8570545 (70:06)


Sicilienne, op. 78. Sonata No. 2, op. 117. Après un rêve, op. 7/1. Elégie, op. 24. Romance, Read more class="ARIAL12">op. 69. Berceuse, op. 16. Papillon, op. 77. Sérénade, op. 98. Sonata No. 1, op. 109. Pavane, op. 50


A blurb on the back cover of this album states that “Fauré’s musical language bridged a gap between 19th-century Romanticism and the music that appeared with the new century.” Sounds like something I’ve said before, even having gone so far as to say that Fauré is the missing link between Brahms and Debussy. Whether one chooses to accept that argument or not, it cannot be denied that Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924), a disciple of Saint-Saëns and an admirer of Schumann, Liszt, and Wagner, had, by the turn of the 20th century, largely fashioned a personal style based on the teachings of Gustave Lefèvre, as set forth in his book Traité d’harmonie , published in 1889. In it Lefèvre advances the idea that chords of the seventh and ninth are not dissonant, ergo, they do not require resolution; and that the third of the scale may freely alternate between major and minor within a “composite” scale that incorporates both modes. These ideas were of course embraced by the likes of Walter Piston and Roger Sessions in their own updated 20th-century treatises on harmony. And one hasn’t far to travel from the unresolved sevenths and ninths of Lefèvre and Fauré to the chromatically altered seventh, ninth, 11th, and bi-tonal chords, and the whole-tone and pentatonic scales of Debussy.


Most of the works on this disc are early to middle Fauré, and thus closer in content and style to the romantic aesthetic than they are to the composer’s later efforts. And three of the pieces are arrangements of works originally written for other media. The famous Après un rêve of 1870, presented here in a transcription by Pablo Casals, was conceived as a mélodie for voice and piano. The 1878–79 Berceuse was a violin and piano piece. And the ubiquitous 1887 Pavane , given here in an arrangement by Henri Büsser, was an orchestral work with choral parts later added.


Placing the remaining numbers, originally for cello, in chronological order, we have the Elégie (1883), the Romance (1894), Papillon (1894), Sicilienne (1898), the Sérénade (1908), the First Sonata (1917), and the Second Sonata (1921). While Fauré’s output did not cease in the decade between the 1898 Sicilienne and the 1908 Sérénade , it’s interesting to note that his 1898 incidental music to Pelléas et Mélisande was quite possibly his final doffing of his 19th-century Romantic hat. There’s no questioning that the next few years were a time of reexamination for Fauré. Surely, he must have heard Debussy’s opera based on the same play that was premiered in 1902, and possibly even Schoenberg’s exactly contemporaneous tone poem on the subject. And though I doubt that Sibelius would have been known in France at this early date, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Fauré may even have heard the Finnish composer’s 1905 incidental music of the same title. Whatever the extent of Fauré’s exposure to these various stimuli may have been, changes in his compositional style and technique become evident with his 1906 song cycle La Chanson d’Eve , op. 95.


Both of the cello sonatas belong to Fauré’s late period, the second of the two being among his last works. While still conforming to a Classical three-movement fast-slow-fast pattern, the harmonic language is now freer and the melodic treatment more fluid, giving a sense that the music is “through-composed.” With the exception of an 1888 Petite pièce in G Major, op. 49, which has been lost, the current Naxos disc, as far as I know, gives us all of Fauré’s original works for cello, plus the three aforementioned arrangements.


German-born, prize-winning cellist Ina-Esther Joost Ben-Sasson studied with Pierre Fournier and Sergiu Celibidache. She is today an Israeli citizen, and principal cellist and frequent soloist with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. Her discography, at least according to Naxos’s brief bio, includes the Bach suites for solo cello, but I was not able to find it, or any other of her recordings, listed. Allan Sternfield is a “made in the U.S.A.” product, having studied at Baltimore’s Peabody Conservatory of Music. He was subsequently coached by Leon Fleisher and Wilhelm Kempff.


Naxos has here entered into competition with itself, for another fine release on the same label with Maria Kliegel and Nina Tichman, minus the Pavane , contains exactly the same program. Such duplication seems odd, especially since both discs seem to have been recorded only a year and a half apart. The current Joost/Sternfield CD, just released, was recorded mid 2007; the Kliegel/Tichman, released in 2008, was recorded late in 2005. It’s a head-scratcher to be sure. Be that as it may, a comparison between the two reveals little difference, certainly not enough to warrant purchasing Joost/Sternfield if you already have Kliegel/Tichman. J&S offer an extra with the inclusion of the Pavane , a piece you’re already bound to have in its original orchestral version. In general, though not in every single case, J&S are a bit slower in their tempo choices than K&T in the short pieces, and considerably so in the two sonatas. This may impart a somewhat more nostalgic feeling to J&S’s readings, which can, at times, suggest a salon atmosphere. But in terms of technical execution, tone production, and intonation, I would be happy with either recording.


FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Read less

Works on This Recording

1. Sicilienne for Cello and Piano, Op. 78 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Ina-Esther Joost Ben-Sasson (Cello), Allan Sternfield (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1898; France 
2. Sonata for Cello and Piano no 2 in G minor, Op. 117 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Ina-Esther Joost Ben-Sasson (Cello), Allan Sternfield (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1921; France 
3. Après un rêve, Op. 7 no 1 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Ina-Esther Joost Ben-Sasson (Cello), Allan Sternfield (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877; France 
4. Elégie for Cello and Piano, Op. 24 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Ina-Esther Joost Ben-Sasson (Cello), Allan Sternfield (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880; France 
5. Romance for Cello and Piano, Op. 69 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Ina-Esther Joost Ben-Sasson (Cello), Allan Sternfield (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1894; France 
6. Romance for Cello and Piano, Op. 69 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Ina-Esther Joost Ben-Sasson (Cello), Allan Sternfield (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1894; France 
7. Berceuse for Violin and Piano in D major, Op. 16 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Ina-Esther Joost Ben-Sasson (Cello), Allan Sternfield (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878-1879; France 
8. Papillon for Cello and Piano in A major, Op. 77 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Ina-Esther Joost Ben-Sasson (Cello), Allan Sternfield (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1884; France 
9. Serenade for Cello and Piano in B minor, Op. 98 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Ina-Esther Joost Ben-Sasson (Cello), Allan Sternfield (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1908; France 
10. Sonata for Cello and Piano no 1 in D minor, Op. 109 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Ina-Esther Joost Ben-Sasson (Cello), Allan Sternfield (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1917; France 
11. Pavane, Op. 50 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Ina-Esther Joost Ben-Sasson (Cello), Allan Sternfield (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887; France 

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title
Review This Title Share on Facebook