Chopin, Schumann: Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 65

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Chopin,Schumann
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 65
PERFORMER: Torleif Thedéen (cello); Roland Pöntinen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1076
Thedéen and Pöntinen give an engagingly purposeful account of Chopin’s Cello Sonata, in which straightforwardness and avoidance of sentimentality often impress the most. During the extended opening Allegro, they attain a pleasingly integrated fusion of its over-arching ideas, yet show a healthy regard for vital structural cohesion that’s easily lost when the playing gets too rhetorical and effortful. That’s where the recent live DG Maisky/Argerich version sometimes disappointed. Thedéen is several degrees cooler, though, so musical waymarkers aren’t inundated by misplaced adrenalin surges at climactic points, including (crucially) the summit of the development.

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The scherzo is lighter of touch and appreciably faster than Maisky’s. The effect, though, is never that of Chopinesque style brillant with obbligato cello reluctantly added, but rather of a finely judged and equitable partnership. The Largo is probably too understated, but this performance ends with a spirited bravura display in the finale, also marginally faster than Maisky’s. Just occasionally (chiefly during

the first-movement development and latter stages of the finale), Argerich’s legendary strength (especially her left hand) and tonal mass suggests Pöntinen’s accompaniments are slightly lightweight. The deft efficiency and commitment underpinning this reading offsets such concerns, however, and the Schumann pieces are nicely done, too.

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This might have been a winner had BIS concentrated solely on Chopin. As it stands, there’s no Introduction and Polonaise (in which these players would doubtless excel), nor any of the Chopin transcriptions by Glazunov, Ginzburg and Piatigorsky, leaving the 1994 Maria Kliegel/Bernd Glemser recording on Naxos as the best overall option, especially if you value completeness. Michael Jameson