Chopin: Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 65; Introduction to Polonaise in C for Piano and Cello; Grand Duo Concertant in E for Piano and Cello; Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 8

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COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: National Institute Fryderyk Chopin
WORKS: Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 65; Introduction to Polonaise in C for Piano and Cello; Grand Duo Concertant in E for Piano and Cello; Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 8
PERFORMER: Andrzej Bauer (cello), Jakub Jakowicz (violin), Jan Krzysztof Broja (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: NIFCCD 013

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Chopin’s chamber music remains on the periphery of his output, for public and players alike. Witness the relative scarcity of recordings devoted to it. Consisting of a mere four works, two of them youthful though characteristically elegant trifles, it is framed by an early, teenage, trio, and the late (possibly prophetic) Sonata for cello and piano – itself more admired than loved.

In the earlier works, the piano gets the lion’s share of the material, the other instruments serving mostly as glorified handmaidens. Works by a genius, undoubtedly; works of genius, no – with the possible exception of the Sonata, though few rank it with his greatest work.

One of Chopin’s last substantial works, it cost him more effort than anything else he wrote. The result, in feel and texture, is one of the very few of his works that could be described as Germanic. All the performers here are fine musicians, and the use of an 1849 Érard piano adds a four-dimensional perspective, conjuring up an (illusory?) sense of the time not always evident in the playing.

Only sporadically does Jan Krzysztof Broja take full advantage of the piano’s colouristic possibilities, and the cellist Andrzej Bauer is surprisingly reserved, even in the substantial Sonata. Pity, because he plays beautifully. Indeed, Broja could learn much from him about suppleness of phrasing and naturalness of inflection. 

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An interesting release for the historically minded, but you get more compelling playing of the same repertoire from Ax/Ma/Frank on Sony. Jeremy Siepmann