Cello Sonata No. 1 in B flat major, Op. 45; Cello Sonata No. 2 in D major, Op. 58; Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49*
Viola de Hoog (cello), Mikayel Balyan (piano), *Marten Root (flute)
VIVAT VIVAT120 76:54 mins
In this new recording of the D minor Piano Trio, the first 16 bars of cello melody accompanied by a quietly agitated piano part sounds reassuringly familiar. The surprise comes in bar 17, where a flute instead of the violin comes in. It was Mendelssohn’s London publishers who insisted that a flute arrangement was a sine qua non for the English market. Mendelssohn thought the cool sound of the wind instrument unsuited to the passionate intensity of the outer movements, and suggested limiting the transcription to the Andante and Scherzo; but he was persuaded to supply a flute part for the whole trio. Most of the changes he made involved shifting the original violin part up by an octave, but that would have spoiled the murmuring effect at the end of the slow movement; and since some of the violin’s notes there lay below the flute’s range, Mendelssohn had to rewrite the passage. As a curiosity, the flute version is worth hearing, and Marten Root makes a fine job of it, but it’s hardly a convincing substitute for the original.
Viola de Hoog is persuasive in Mendelssohn’s two cello sonatas, too, though perhaps she’s slightly on the reserved side in the dramatic recitatives of the Second Sonata’s slow movement, which curiously alternate with the severity of a chorale melody on the piano. The talented Armenian pianist Mikayel Balyan, playing on a light-toned Érard instrument of the kind Mendelssohn himself favoured, offers dazzling virtuosity throughout.
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