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Brahms Analogue (Cello Sonatas Nos 1 & 2 etc)

Leonard Elschenbroich (cello), Alexei Grynyuk (piano) (Onyx)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Brahms Analogue – Cello Sonatas Nos 1 & 2; Four Serious Songs (arr. cello/piano)
Leonard Elschenbroich (cello), Alexei Grynyuk (piano)
Onyx ONYX 4226   77:09 mins


Leonard Elschenbroich and Alexei Grynyuk, a well-established and well-suited duo, here turn their attention to the two splendid and naturally contrasted Brahms sonatas. For good measure, too, they throw in an arrangement of the Four Serious Songs, an austere, late set from 1896 that these days is so unusual it is good to hear it at all.

Intriguingly, the duo has chosen to use analogue rather than digital technology: apparently Elschenbroich was setting out to recreate the kind of ambience a recording would have had in the 1950s-’60s. The account is definitely characterful, but whether this is down to the technology or the performance is less certain; no doubt listeners will draw their own conclusions.

Elschenbroich himself does not sound much like a cellist of the mid-century, however; their approach tended to be beefier and more operatic. His tone is more character-tenor than smooth baritone, with slender 21st-century vibrato and articulation that speaks ahead of singing. Grynyuk meanwhile relishes the chunky glories of the piano writing, creating a satisfying forest of sound.


One of the most enjoyable aspects is that the pair are not above sometimes letting the music’s emotions run away with them; at the height of the E minor opening movement’s development, Elschenbroich’s dips and plunges carry the expression to the very brink of losing control. Emotional adventure rather than safety is therefore a prime driving force and the result is all the warmer for it. Overall, these are taut, intelligent performances from two artists seemingly much of one mind. Jessica Duchen