ALBUM TITLE: Brahms: Complete Music for Cello and Piano
WORKS: Cello Sonatas 1 & 2; F-A-E Scherzo (arr. Forbes); Violin Sonata No. 1 (arr. Brahms); Hungarian Dances Nos. 1-7 (arr. Piatti); Lieder (arr. Anon); Second Movement of Piano Concerto No. 2 (arr. Garben)
PERFORMER: Jonathan Aasgaard (Cello); Martin Roscoe (Piano)
The best performance here is an extraordinary rendition of the First Violin Sonata. Transferred to the cello’s upper strings, and played with limpid elegance, its musing character is given an amplified radiance I’d not heard before. It’s puzzling, because Jonathan Aasgaard’s rather careful readings of the two Cello Sonatas never achieve that warmth or fluency.
The challenge in the finale of the First Cello Sonata is to whip up a storm around the Bach-inspired fugue and rescue it from academicism. Here it is accurate and polite but doesn’t lift off the page.
Aasgard, who is principal cellist of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, fares better in the gracefully sunny finale of the Second Sonata. Indeed, his lyrical playing is always sensitive and well-shaped but we miss a sense of power unleashed in the majestic opening of Sonata No. 2.
Roscoe contributes to this with his wonderfully clear and light, but sometimes self-effacing, playing. He seems too eager not to dominate Aasgard, rather to the detriment of the stormy character of these two great first movements, and especially the fiery scherzo of the F major Sonata and Forbes’s arrangement of the F-A-E Sonata. There’s a sense of holding back and playing safe when the music itself is going for broke.
The Hungarian Dances are beautifully executed, but they never catapult us into the whirl of a real dance. More pleasing is the fine selection of Lied transcriptions, and a luminous rendition of the cello solo from the Piano Concerto No. 2. Helen Wallace