Notes and Editorial Reviews
"The F-Major Cello Sonata [of Strauss]...is of such rare beauty and exquisite Romantic effusiveness that I am hard-pressed to understand why it has not become a standard repertoire favorite among cellists and audiences alike. Premiered in 1883 by Hanuš Wihan—the same cellist to whom Dvo?ák dedicated his cello concerto—Strauss’s sonata was an immediate hit. It’s not hard to see why. The frame, like that of Brahms’s two sonatas for the instrument, is a formally Classical one; but the melodic and harmonic material used to upholster the frame is lavish and luxurious. Not for the young Strauss, though, the introspective melancholy of Brahms. The first movement opens with a bold, striding gesture that sets the tone for what is to be a confident, bracing sprint. Already, Strauss’s beleaguered hero mode (foreshadows of Ein Heldenleben and Don Quixote) can be perceived. The slow movement is almost Mendelssohnian in its sustained cello song and delicate piano accompaniment. The spirit of Mendelssohn pervades the last movement as well, but this time it’s the playful sprites and mischievous elves that dance their way through its pages. The F-Major Romance that precedes the sonata on the disc is an extended cantabile meditation that almost sounds like it could be a preparatory study for the slow movement of the sonata.
Reger’s early (1898) G-Minor Cello Sonata is probably like nothing else you have heard by him. It is every bit as romantically effusive as the Strauss, and even closer in every way to the sound world of Brahms. There is nothing difficult about it in terms of hearing; playing it may be another matter. Larger in scale than the Strauss—four movements vs. three—Reger’s sonata is not as bold or thrusting. It is a more inward looking work, and one of refined beauty and much appeal. Ditto, the very brief (two minutes) Petite Romance. Strauss’s sonata has had a fair number of recordings, yet it does not appear that many “big-name” cellists of past generations were willing to take it up...this new CD from Harmonia Mundi continues this label’s standards of excellence for recording, production, and presentation. But most important, of course, is the playing, which I cannot imagine being bettered. Emmanuelle Bertrand, whose cello playing I had not previously encountered, draws from her instrument a generous, but sweet, glowing tone, and invests these scores with an equal measure of intelligence and feeling. Pianist Pascal Amoyel is every bit a true partner who supports when the music calls for it, and leads when the roles are reversed.
This is highly recommended."
Jerry Dubins, FANFARE
Reviewing original release of this recording.