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Chopin; Rachmaninov, Cello Sonatas / Lastrapes, Carroll

Chopin / Rachmaninov / Lastrapes / Carroll
Release Date: 03/13/2012 
Label:  Centaur Records   Catalog #: 3196  
Composer:  Frédéric ChopinSergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Jeffrey LastrapesConstance Carroll
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CHOPIN Cello Sonata. RACHMANINOFF Cello Sonata Jeffrey Noel Lastrapes (vc); Constance Carroll (pn) CENTAUR CRC 3196 (70: 17)

The pairing of these two widely known cello sonatas on disc is a familiar one; thus, we ought to expect that any new version of them will have something special to say. This new one by Jeffrey Noel Lastrapes and Constance Carroll does.

Lastrapes holds degrees from both Curtis and Read more Juilliard where, at the latter institution, he studied under Harvey Shapiro. Master classes with Rostropovich, Paul Tortelier, Yo Yo Ma, and Lynn Harrell added further artistic finishing to Lastrapes’s playing.

Constance Carroll, his partner in these performances, holds degrees from the University of Arizona (with high distinction) and the Eastman School of Music. She then furthered her studies as a Fulbright Scholar in Vienna and Salzburg.

Both of the works on this disc have been discussed at length in prior reviews, rendering further analysis of the music and the centrality of these scores to the cello repertoire unnecessary.

Lastrapes’s Chopin is of commanding authority, projected with a bold, muscular sweep and fullness of tone that, at first, might seem more suited to later Romantic period works. Certainly, this is nothing like the leaner period-instrument performance by Sergei Istomin reviewed in Fanfare 34: 6. Lastrape and Carroll perform this late masterpiece by Chopin with a throbbing intensity that avoids any suggestion of the kind of sentimentalizing or feminizing to which the composer’s music has, on more than one occasion, been subjected. We know how Chopin struggled to integrate the two instruments to assure that the piano would not dominate, and I can honestly say that if he were alive today to hear this exceptionally beautifully balanced performance by Lastrape and Carroll it would please him greatly to experience firsthand the fruits of his labors.

Rachmaninoff’s Cello Sonata has managed to edge out Chopin’s in numbers of recordings, but just by the proverbial hair on a chin. Rachmaninoff faced the same difficulties as Chopin in achieving a well-regulated balance between the cello and piano, but, in truth, he didn’t overcome them quite as effectively. At this early stage of his career—given the disastrous reception of his First Symphony in 1897 and the resounding success of his Second Piano Concerto four years later—Rachmaninoff may have felt it was his ability to dazzle at the piano, both as performer and composer, that was most in demand and most likely to win him public and critical approval. Chopin, in contrast, was nearing the end of his life when he composed his cello sonata. As pianist and composer, he had nothing to prove and nothing to lose.

While the cello part to Rachmaninoff’s sonata is by no means a breeze, critics have often pointed to “the overpowering and demanding piano passages, which only a pianist of the highest caliber could execute.” Rachmaninoff was insistent that “the piano is not to dominate a performance, but rather that cellist and pianist are to be equal partners.” Easily said, perhaps, but the written score presents evidence that tends to challenge the idealization.

The beauty of this performance by Lastrape and Carroll is that they’ve succeed in transforming Rachmaninoff’s perception into reality with a reading that balances the cello and piano parts with an equilibrium I’ve rarely heard achieved in this work. Lastrape’s tone, as in the Chopin, is rich and lustrous, and Carroll has the requisite technical skill and power not just to master the daunting task of playing the notes but to make magnificent music of them. This is a recording of these two sonatas that goes to the top of the list. Urgently recommended.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor, B 160/Op. 65 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Jeffrey Lastrapes (Cello), Constance Carroll (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1845-1846; Paris, France 
Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor, Op. 19 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Jeffrey Lastrapes (Cello), Constance Carroll (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901; Russia 

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