…Wispelwey plays an English instrument by Barak Norman (1710) whose bright, immediate timbre is a welcome asset in these sonatas. An involving issue, enhanced by discreetly balanced and mercifully uncoloured recorded sound.
In this set of six sonatas for cello and continuo, Geminiani [1687-1762] follows the Corellian model […] of movements—except for the last, which is in three movements. Geminiani’s writing for the solo instrument shows an advance on Corelli in the brilliant figuration in the fast movements. Slow movements can sometimes be a bit perfunctory, lasting less than a minute, though this is not always the case. Geminiani apparently enjoyed working with the sonorities created by two cellos, and in his contrapuntal movements sometimes allows the solo and continuo cellos to cross lines.
Jaap ter Linden […] handles Geminiani’s elaborate music with ease. His smooth and rounded tone serves the music well. The continuo players provide able accompaniment. The performers are recorded in close perspective in excellent sound. (Ron Salemi, Fanfare)
Bohuslav Martinů produced a huge catalogue of chamber music for a variety of instruments. The cello seems to have occupied a special place in his heart, however, and the three cello sonatas were probably of great significance to him; each of them has an entirely distinct character and appears to owe something to extra-musical events. The most dramatic of the three, the First Sonata was written in Paris in May 1939, shortly after Martinů’s Czech homeland had fallen to the Nazis. Having fled Paris in 1940, Martinů composed Sonata No.2 shortly after reaching safety in the USA, and the work celebrates the rhythms and the verve of the new world. Although written in memory of a deceased friend, the Third Sonata is still more celebratory: even the slow movement is pastoral rather than tragic, while the finale – or at least its ending – ‘would hardly be out of place at a rodeo’, as Steven Isserlis writes in his own liner notes to this disc.
Acclaimed instrumentalists, Jacqueline du Pre and Daniel Barenboim, perform earlier masterpieces by Brahms. These sonatas written for cello and piano invoke the romantic style, interpreted superbly by the pair. The performances are expressive, graceful and reveal the pieces’ sheer tonal beauty. A vital addition to any music lover's library.
Paul Watkins is one of the world’s finest cellists. He is much in demand throughout the world and although he has made several recordings for Chandos in the past, this is his first as an exclusive artist. He is accompanied by his brother Huw Watkins, with whom he has developed an extremely rewarding musical partnership. The three cello sonatas of the Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu span the period 1939 – 52 and are full of rewarding musical invention. The experience of his long exile was often expressed in his music, particularly here in the Third Sonata and in the Variations on a Slovak Theme. If in the First, competed in 1939, the unease occasioned by World War II may be detected in the first two movements, the energetic finale, driven by Martinu’s motoric rhythms, prompted the composer to remark of its first performance: ‘It came as a last greeting, a beam of light from a better world (which is the opinion of others, not my own). For several minutes we realised what music could give us and we forgot about reality.’
There is a touch of the impetuous about Richard Lester's playing of these sonatas which seems to me to capture very happily their character: their somewhat wayward invention, their sense of being formalized versions of a cellist's improvisations. The momentary hesitancies hint at the playercomposer who is deciding as he goes which of the ideas in his mind to try out next. Yet beneath it is a strong rhythm and a very sure compositional technique. The music is very high lying: the cellist has prolonged spells in high thumb positions with quite rapid passagework, and these Lester executes with great brilliance and crispness — there is just one passage, in the finale of the C major work, where accuracy of intonation momentarily eludes him, but otherwise one cannot imagine playing of greater exactitude.
Playing together for the first time for Hyperion, Hough and Isserlis are stunningly matched in this large-scale passionate romantic programme. The sonatas stand at the centre of the meaty repertoire established by Brahms—whose two cello sonatas Steven Isserlis has recorded for us in an award-winning disc accompanied by Peter Evans (CDA66159)—and characterised by grand sweeping gestures, lush melody, and heartfelt emotions that sear from pathos to frenzy. The Franck is, of course, an alternative version the composer wished for his violin sonata, a transition that many feel to be the work's happiest incarnation.