Cello Sonatas Nos 1-3; Seven Arabesques
Raphael Wallfisch (cello), John York (piano)
Nimbus NI 8105 74:38 mins
Martinů’s three cello sonatas are masterpieces of the repertoire that have been gratefully taken up by many players. Recordings range from the ‘old masters’ (in this context) Saša Večtomov and János Starker to Steven Isserlis, who has recorded them twice, and this latest release comes from the regular partnership of Raphael Wallfisch and John York.
The sonatas are all mature Martinů: No. 1 was written amid personal and political turmoil in Paris in 1939, Nos 2 and 3 during the composer’s early years in America. The cello and piano are equally important in this music, though the piano carries a particular burden in the rhythmically mobile Third Sonata, perhaps the most overtly Czech of them all. The shifting ground is not a matter of simple syncopation, and here York is at a disadvantage compared to Josef Páleníček (for Večtomov) and Rudolf Firkušný (Starker). But Wallfisch and York do bring their own sense of clarity to the music, with the cellist finding the lyrical impulse and using his strongly projected tone to sustain long lines.
The earlier Arabesques, more straightforwardly entertaining, are added to make a generously full programme.
Read more reviews of the latest Martinů recordings