WORKS: Cello Sonata
PERFORMER: Arthur Cook (cello), Deborah Gilwood (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CRC 2575
These three sonatas explore emotions that all too often tread a fine line between stability and madness – hardly surprising given that they were composed during the turbulent years of the Weimar Republic and, as the disc’s title suggests, ‘Banned by Hitler’. Perhaps least typical is the Weill, a lengthy and somewhat discursive apprentice work of heightened expression completed at the age of 20, just before he embarked upon further studies with Busoni. Within years Weill was to repudiate its highly charged late-Romantic musical language, but there are sufficient hints of the composer’s more familiar hard-edged style, especially in the grotesque dance rhythms of the finale, to sustain one’s interest. By contrast, both Hindemith and Toch exercise more structural discipline in their sonatas, though elements of hysteria are never far from the surface.
Arthur Cook and Deborah Gilwood are particularly adept at projecting the unhinged element in the mechanistic outer movements of the Toch, and they create a suitably eerie atmosphere in its central Intermezzo, appropriately subtitled ‘The Spider’. The duo also makes out a persuasive case for the Weill, and is particularly magical in the Sonata’s ethereal closing pages. In the Hindemith, however, the players face formidable competition from Wendy Warner and Eileen Buck on Bridge, who offer a performance that is far more incisive and a superior recording in which the piano never threatens to swamp the cello. Erik Levi