Chopin: Cello Sonata; cello transcriptions

COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: Virgin
ALBUM TITLE: Nocturne
WORKS: Cello Sonata; cello transcriptions

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PERFORMER: Truls Mørk (cello), Kathryn Stott (piano)

CATALOGUE NO: 385 7842
Truls Mørk recorded Chopin’s Cello Sonata with Andsnes (Virgin) back in 1990, following his success on the international competition circuit. Nearly 20 years later, he returns to this elusive work and reveals a deeper seam of poetry.

With Kathryn Stott as his wonderfully sensitive, flexible partner, he finds more light and shade in the first movement, and their swirling rubato, expertly measured, makes for a compelling, mercurial Scherzo. Time stands still in the slow movement, with a veiled, dreamlike vocalise. What is most impressive about this performance is the exquisite pianissimo both achieve, while maintaining a perfect tonal balance. The old complaint that the dense piano part dominates simply does not apply here: Stott’s touch is so gossamer-light, the engineers had no need to throw the cello forward unnaturally.

Yet for all its understated beauty, perhaps this recording does not quite reach the Romantic heights of Rostropovich and Argerich’s 1980 recording (on DG). But what one misses in excitement and forward impetus, one gains in quiet luminescence.

The transcriptions by various hands (including Taneyev and Glazunov) are less successful, through no fault of the performers who turn each one beautifully, articulating phrases where Misha Maisky (on DG) bathes in resonance. But you transcribe Chopin at your peril: his long cantilenas seem to be crying out to be sung on a cello or violin, but, strangely, once removed from the piano, lose their magic. The composer balanced the piano’s sonorities with such precision that the different colours even of the cello’s individual strings can jar. Much to enjoy here, though.

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Helen Wallace