Russian Tales (Myaskovsky; Glazunov)

Andreas Brantelid (cello), Bengt Forsberg (piano) (Naxos)

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Russian Tales
Myaskovsky: Cello Sonata No. 1 in D major, Op. 12; Cello Sonata No. 2 in A minor, Op. 81; Glazunov: 2 Pieces, Op. 20; Chant du menestrel, Op. 71
Andreas Brantelid (cello), Bengt Forsberg (piano)
Naxos 8.573985   39:30 mins

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Though largely neglected in the concert hall, there are already half a dozen or so recordings offering both Myaskovsky’s cello sonatas, including a previous one on Naxos (Ina-Esther Joost Ben-Sasson with Allan Sternfield), even before this new arrival. Cellist Andreas Brantelid plays with an attractively mellow, warm tone, and his distinct yet understated musicianship nudges these gently spoken late-Romantic works even closer to the world of Fauré (a style somewhat intrinsic to these sonatas, all the more remarkably since Myaskovsky composed them respectively in 1911 and 1948).

With pianist Bengt Forsberg his sympathetic accomplice, Brantelid’s gently reflective approach works particularly well in the Second Sonata, whose opening and often recurring melody can in other hands seem too insistent. Yet the contrasts tell as they should, such as in the First Sonata’s sudden yet understated change of mood introduced by the development section, all the more effective as it follows the warm-hearted ease of Brantelid and Forsberg’s account of the exposition.

If Myaskovsky comes across as Fauré-like, then Glazunov suggests the sunnier melodic charm of a Saint-Saëns (albeit, sounding more obviously Russian than does Myaskovsky), and his three ‘encores’ are delicious sorbet after Myaskovsky’s somewhat melancholic musings. These are all arrangements of works for cello and orchestra, and the second of the Two Pieces Op. 20, the ‘Spanish Serenade’, is especially delightful with Forsberg’s sparkling arpeggios setting the scene for Brantelid’s infectiously light-footed dance. Altogether, a generally relaxed yet engaging programme which offers very pleasant and not too demanding listening.

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Daniel Jaffé