Myaskovsky • Rachmaninov: Cello Sonatas

Bruno Philippe (cello), Jérôme Ducros (piano) (Harmonia Mundi)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Myaskovsky • Rachmaninov
Rachmaninov: Cello Sonata; Two Pieces, Op. 2; Prelude in C sharp minor, Op. 3/2; Cello Sonata; Myaskovsky: Cello Sonata No. 1
Bruno Philippe (cello), Jérôme Ducros (piano)
Harmonia Mundi HMM 902340   70:52 mins


It’s difficult to understand why Nikolai Myaskovsky’s First Cello Sonata remains so neglected. The work has so many ingredients that should guarantee it instant appeal, not least a gloriously lyrical melody that opens and closes the Sonata and some finely wrought material with exciting and dynamic musical interaction between cello and piano. Young French cellist Bruno Philippe inflects the music with great fervour, strongly supported by Jérôme Ducros’s impressive mastery of the demanding piano part and an admirably balanced recording.

Philippe and Ducros are just as compelling in the much better-known Rachmaninov Sonata. Here Philippe steadfastly resists the temptation to indulge in too much tempo fluctuation even at moments of greatest intensity. In fact, by adopting this strategy he not only enhances the music’s requisite emotional warmth, but also strengthens the structural coherence of the outer movements. Ducros proves to be a superbly responsive partner, delivering a suitably pungent timbre in the exciting Scherzo and bringing exceptional depth of tone to the full-blooded piano writing in the central section of the Finale.

Three other works by Rachmaninov provide further delights. The Op. 2 pieces for Cello and Piano contrast the ardently lyrical ‘Prélude’ with the more exotically coloured ‘Danse orientale’ both projected here with elegance, charm and great fluidity. Finally, Ducros gets the chance to shine with a performance of the all-too-familiar C sharp minor Prelude that avoids exaggerated musical gestures and reminds us of the music’s nobility, passion and harmonic originality. All in all, an outstanding release.


Erik Levi