Collection: The Cello and the King of Prussia

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Boccherini,Jean-Pierre Duport & Bernhard Romberg; Exercises by Duport; Variations by Beethoven
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Sonatas by Boccherini, Jean-Pierre Duport & Bernhard Romberg; Exercises by Duport; Variations by Beethoven
PERFORMER: Anner Bylsma, Kenneth Slowik (cello), Stanley Hoogland (fortepiano)
CATALOGUE NO: SK 63360

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The cellist king is Friedrich Wilhelm II, nephew of Frederick the Great and his successor. Judging by the pyrotechnic display in a sonata for two cellos by Jean-Pierre Duport, the king had a fiendish technique. Bylsma has ‘realised’ an added fortepiano right-hand part to create a strange but appealing texture.

Two ‘Fingering Exercises’ by Duport’s younger brother, Jean-Louis, are similarly stratospheric and some of the fastest, most tempestuous cello playing you’re ever likely to meet, though the musical ideas are predictable enough. Bylsma takes a rather stolid approach to Beethoven’s sets of variations on Handel’s ‘See the conqu’ring hero’ and Mozart’s ‘Bei Männern’. Here Hoogland uses a copy of a delicate Walther fortepiano, with Bylsma a touch too forward and dominant.

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The fruitier tone of a later piano is a match for the cello in a fine sonata by Romberg. He was a formidable cellist who played Beethoven’s sonatas with the composer; his own music too has Beethovenian power and scale. Recorded ‘presence’ is at the cost of noise; breathing as well as playing is often impassioned, and calloused fingers slide raspingly along strings. But if you’re captivated by sheer virtuosity, you must not miss this disc. George Pratt