Notes and Editorial Reviews
Since none of Mendelssohn's cello and piano works were currently available on CD, this disc would have been welcome enough even without the tenderly nostalgic little unpublished Assai tranguillo (written by the 26-year-old Mendelssohn for his good young friend, Julius Rietz) recorded here for the very first time. Lasting only just over two minutes it ends inconclusively on the dominant, as if intended to preface something bigger. But brief as it is, I thought it no less of a gem than the Lied ohne Worte of 1845 described by Susan Tomes in her refreshing introductory note as "one of the most perfect and memorable" of its kind.
I'm sure many collectors will also be as delighted as I was to renew acquaintance (after far
too long) with the unjustly neglected Variations concertantes, specially composed in 1838 for the composer's younger brother, Paul, a keen amateur cellist although a banker-to-be. Both the "homely" (to quote Tomes again) D major theme and increasingly demonstrative figuration of the variations (not forgetting the penultimate presto edagitato in the minor) are so cunningly crafted as well as so quintessentially Mendelssohnian in spirit as to make it hard to believe he was still only 20 at the time.
It is certainly these three works that allow the cellist and pianist to show their acutest telepathy as a duo. The two sonatas in their turn find them again very much on the composer's own imaginative wavelength. But hailing the Second as the more passionate of the two, Tomes draws attention to the torrents of keyboard arpeggios in the exultant outer movements that "almost overwhelm the singing lines of the cello". And except in the more lightly scored central movements in both, I did feel that balance did not favour the shyer Richard Lester. While sensitively mellowtoned and lyrical, his line at times seems to need stronger projection to match this very positive pianist's own musical conviction. Or could this be just a matter of their positioning in St Mary's Church, Hatfield Broad Oak?
-- Gramophone [5/1989]
Review of original release
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