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Martinu: Cello Sonatas No 1-3 / Isserlis, Mustonen

Release Date: 05/27/2014 
Label:  Bis   Catalog #: 2042   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Bohuslav MartinuJean SibeliusOlli Mustonen
Performer:  Steven IsserlisOlli Mustonen
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 1 Hours 18 Mins. 

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SuperAudio CD:  $19.99
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.


This CD recommends itself. Cellist Steven Isserlis has recorded Martin?’s three excellent sonatas. His accompanist is composer Olli Mustonen, a master of the idiom who also contributes his own recent sonata to the program. There’s another substantial bonus in Malinconia, a powerfully dark cello piece by Jean Sibelius. It’s all recorded in a hybrid SACD by the BIS engineers.

Those facts alone make it an important release. I feel like my job is simply to let you know that the album exists, so you can look for it. In case you need to read anything else, Isserlis delivers the goods in his usual highly
Read more impassioned, expressive style; consider the Sibelius piece, which dates from 1900 but foreshadows the grim, violent power of the Fourth Symphony. It was written after the death of the composer’s daughter, and makes the listener share his grief.

Isserlis writes useful, detailed notes on the fifteen-minute sonata Olli Mustonen composed, which fits into the program well. That is to say, it shares with Martin? a focus on emotional ambivalence and internal conflict, plus excellent craftsmanship. The second movement is a sort of scherzo-in-reverse, slower material bookending an incredibly virtuosic, spinning cello part. We then get the real scherzo, and a finale that at last offers us a long, breathtaking melody teased upward into the highest notes Isserlis can play.

The three Martin? cello sonatas are from late in his career, the first two dating from 1939 and 1941. The first sonata cycles through many moods, with a haunting slow movement that the booklet rightly calls “funereal.” It was premiered by a dream team: Pierre Fournier and Rudolf Firkusný. The second sonata has a lot in common with his symphonies: the opening piano statement sounds reduced from an orchestral original, and the main melodies could have been deployed in the Third or Fourth symphonies. There’s masterful drama in the dialogue and conflict between these instruments; it’s a troubled, brilliant piece that alternates between easy lyricism and abrupt outpourings, with a hint of triumph in the finale.

The third sonata is the most lyrical, and the happiest, with the shadows of wartime years into the past. The finale in particular is a joy, with an unexpected baroque-style piano cadenza. It provides an affirming conclusion to the recital. BIS’s sound is as excellent as ever, and Mustonen and Isserlis have an easy chemistry. Isserlis reports in his liner notes that they’ve been friends since they pulled pranks on one another in school days, and I wonder if the cover photo is another prank. Either way, I hope it’s not the last of this partnership on record. This disc is outstanding, just as you’d expect.

– Brian Reinhart, MusicWeb International Read less

Works on This Recording

Sonata for Cello and Piano no 3 by Bohuslav Martinu
Performer:  Steven Isserlis (Cello), Olli Mustonen (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1952; USA 
Sonata for Cello and Piano no 2 by Bohuslav Martinu
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1941; USA 
Sonata for Cello and Piano no 1 by Bohuslav Martinu
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; France 
Malinconia for Cello and Piano, Op. 20 by Jean Sibelius
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901; Finland 
Sonata for Cello and Piano by Olli Mustonen
Written: 2006 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Martinu and more! June 18, 2014 By Ralph Graves (Hood, VA) See All My Reviews "Steven Isserlis turns in an attractive program of cello music with this new SACD. Bohuslav Martinu wrote in a very distinctive style; one that was remarkably consistent throughout his long and prolific career. Martinu wrote tonal works, but they were his own version of tonality. Dancing syncopations and shimmering chords are Martinu trademarks, and they're here in abundance. Playing two or more of Martinu compositions back-to-back -- especially ones using the same forces -- can have the effect of blurring them together. Isserlis avoids this by interspersing works by two composers whose styles complement Martinu's, simultaneously providing contrast and creating a coherent program. Jean Sibelius' Malinconia, Op. 20 is a dark work, written after the death of the composer's infant daughter. Isserlis convincingly brings out the pathos of the work, while at the same time savoring the beauty of Sibelius' extended melodic lines. Pianist Olli Mustonen not only partners with Isserlis in these performances; he also provides a sonata as well. Mustonen's post-romantic composition fits in nicely with the Martinu and Sibelius works, with plenty of rich sonorities and juicy melodic tidbits. Isserlis doesn't hold back in these performances. Martinu's music has a certain lightness to it, but Isserlis makes it more compelling by really digging into the notes. The urgent character his technique brings to these works makes them, in my opinion, some of the best recorded versions of Martinu's cello sonatas to date. And if you have an opportunity, listen to this release through an SACD player. The intimate nature of this chamber music becomes all the more vivid with the additional sonic details the format provides." Report Abuse
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