Bridge, Britten & Bax: Cello Sonatas

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bax,Bridge,Britten
LABELS: Hanssler
WORKS: Bax: Legend-Sonata; Bridge: Cello Sonata in D minor, H125; Britten: Cello Sonata in C, Op. 65
PERFORMER: Johannes Moser (cello), Paul Rivinius (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 93.257

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This particular trio of British cello sonatas makes for a thought-provoking programme: written between 1916 and 1961, they are each distinctive but alive with interconnecting resonances.

Bridge’s long-limbed melodic narrative and striking modal harmonies find an echo in Bax’s rhapsodic utterance of 1943; while in the depths of Britten’s grinding slow movement and turbulent moto perpetuo we hear an amplification of the cross-rhythmic tension in Bridge’s own writing.

The precise dialogue between instruments in Britten’s bristling chamber drama finds a parallel in Bax’s own highly conversational Sonata, where cello and piano are given space to shine. 

Johannes Moser and Paul Rivinius approach these works with a commanding vitality and confidence. I’d been impressed by Moser’s recent recordings, such as the Saint-Saëns Cello Concertos, also with WDR; here again he exudes an engaging sense of freedom.

The endless melodies of the Bridge are liquescent, but paragraphs beautifully shaped, so that its long reaches never feel amorphous. He brings out an armoury of colours and articulation, along with a fine sense of architecture which places this performance with the very best, such as Steven Doane and Barry Synder’s (Bridge), which perhaps just has the edge for intensity. 

Rivinius, too, brings a rare energy to all three sonatas, together with great sensitivity. Theirs is a probing performance of the Britten, highlighting its debt to Shostakovich and Prokofiev, with a terrific sense of devilish play in the Scherzo.

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The only piece that even they cannot quite lift into greatness
is Bax’s Sonata, which is appealing but lacks structural rigour. Two exciting talents who deserve a serious international profile. Helen Wallace