Works for cello and piano by Brahms and Schubert performed by Pieter Wispelwey and Paolo Giacometti

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COMPOSERS: Brahms,Schubert
LABELS: Evil Penguin Records
ALBUM TITLE: Brahms * Schubert
WORKS: Brahms: Cello Sonata No. 2 in F; Sonata in A (arr. cello); Schubert: Grand Duo in A, D574 (arr. cello)
PERFORMER: Pieter Wispelwey (cello), Paolo Giacometti (piano)


Two of these three works are actually violin sonatas with the stringed instrument’s part mainly transposed down by an octave. Perhaps it’s not altogether surprising to find repertoire-starved cellists poaching on violinists’ territory like this, and in the case of Brahms’s lyrical A major Sonata – several of its themes derived from songs he composed around the same time – most of the piece works very well on the cello. So, too, do the expansive opening bars of Schubert’s sonata in the same key – one of the most sheerly beautiful beginnings in his early chamber works. But the same can’t be said of Schubert’s fleeting scherzo, where the less naturally acrobatic cello’s ‘scrubbing’ makes the music sound murky; or of the graceful slow movement, where even Pieter Wispelwey’s refined playing can’t produce sufficient lightness of tone.

At least Brahms’s F major Sonata Op. 99 was tailor-made for the weight of the cello, even if it doesn’t always solve the problems of balance between the two instruments. Wispelwey and Paolo Giacometti offer appropriately imperious performances of the first three movements, and they’re admirably light in the affable finale. In the scherzo’s da capo – and presumably in order to provide variety in such a long reprise – Wispelwey suddenly plays one passage sul ponte (near the bridge of the instrument), producing a ‘glassy’ sound that’s rather out of character. But these are fine performances, and if you’re attracted by the notion of the transcribed pieces you couldn’t do better.


Misha Donat