Strauss, Pfitzner

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Pfitzner,Strauss
LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: Cello Sonata in F, Op. 6; Romance in F
PERFORMER: Guido Schiefen (cello); Olaf Dressler (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 87072 2
Big personalities struggling to break free of potent influences, Strauss and Pfitzner as young men complement each other ideally here. The teenage Strauss adds his own Eulenspiegel-ish spring to the Schumann touch, though he does end up taking it seriously in his pensive Andante; Brahms, who was just around the corner for him in 1883 when he completed the work, looms large in the colossal second movement of Pfitzner’s 1890 Sonata. Yet this is an unpredictable Op. 1: the bulky figure who sings so passionately at the start suddenly executes an entrechat towards the end of the first movement, and spins like a top in a fantasy-scherzo.

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The well-balanced intelligence of the perfect duo on this disc slips without fuss from one mood to another. Schiefen knows how to anchor the more passionate outbursts; Dressler dances and sparkles his way through developments that in other hands could become heavy going. Even Strauss’s Romance, anodyne after the clear-cut high spirits of his Sonata’s finale, becomes a perfect lesson in bel canto from this most natural and unaffected of cellists. David Nice