Godard/Boellmann

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Godard/Boellmann
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Cello Sonata in D minor, Op. 104; Two Pieces, Op. 61; Cello Sonata in A minor, Op. 40; Two Pieces, Op. 31
PERFORMER: Mats Lidström (cello); Bengt Forsberg (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66888 DDD
Of all these works, only the Boëllmann Sonata is currently available on disc, in a performance by Navarra and D’Arco on Calliope. That alone would be reason enough for buying this CD; but Lidström’s very expressive playing and the natural, musical partnering with Forsberg adds still more to its claims.

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Benjamin Godard and Léon Boëllmann, two fairly conservative late 19th-century Frenchmen who trained in Paris at the Conservatoire and École Niedermeyer respectively, have not lived on in the public memory. But their cello sonatas, even if not ‘truly grand’, as Lidström describes them in the booklet, are not far off and they have been growing on me more and more.

The Boëllmann is the weightier piece: a bold, declamatory opening, a slow movement gentle and ecstatic in turn, and a large-scale finale that suffers, however, from an insufficiently interesting main theme. The three-movement Godard Sonata is a thoughtful piece, reminiscent at times of its composer’s better-known contemporaries Franck and, in its last movement, Saint-Saëns. This movement is the most complex, with three sections, one of them containing a passionate, full-hearted high tune for the cello.

Boëllmann’s Two Pieces have a light, impressionistic feel, while in Godard’s Aubade, the first of his own Two Pieces, the piano introduction could come from a Schumann song.

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But oh, the heavy breathing! The booklet picture of Lidström catches him apparently in the very midst of one of those noisy gasps for air that punctuate his performance. It certainly lends immediacy, but when do you ever get that close in a live performance? Janet Banks