Brahms, Schumann: Cello Sonata No. 1 in E minor, Op. 38; Cello Sonata No. 2 in F, Op. 99

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COMPOSERS: Brahms,Schumann
LABELS: Arabesque
WORKS: Cello Sonata No. 1 in E minor, Op. 38; Cello Sonata No. 2 in F, Op. 99
PERFORMER: Colin Carr (cello), Lee Luvisi (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Z 6748
This new version of the Brahms cello sonatas gets off to a good start, with a broad, lyrical account of the E minor work’s opening movement, and an elegant performance of its minuet middle movement – both greatly aided by a warm, sonorous recording. Alas, the fugal finale is seriously lacking in energy, with a rather reticent account of the piano part from Lee Luvisi. No doubt he was anxious not to drown his partner, but the constant feeling of holding back does little to promote the music’s forthright character.

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If the E minor Sonata casts more than a passing glance back to the 18th century, its F major companion is nothing if not forward-looking. Even at the time of Brahms’s death its jagged, irregular opening theme was greeted with puzzlement; and nothing, as Schoenberg noted, is repeated without promoting development. The impetuous beginning is one that needs a sense of drama and rhetoric far removed from the apologetic approach offered by Carr and Luvisi. There is, too, more depth to the glowing F sharp major slow movement than their unusually flowing performance reveals; while Luvisi’s playing in the scherzo is sadly lacking in drive and intensity. Schumann’s Op. 73 Fantasy Pieces (originally for clarinet) fare a good deal better, but if it’s the Brahms you’re after, try Rostropovich and Serkin on DG – a bit erratic, and rather poorly recorded, but full of enthralling moments; or, better still, the deeply satisfying version by Truls Mørk and his fine pianist Juhani Lagerspetz. Misha Donat