Chopin • Schu­bert

BBC Music Magazine - - Chamber -

Chopin: Cello Sonata; Nie ma czego trzeba (arr. Isserlis); Fran­chomme:

Noc­turne in C mi­nor, Op. 15/1; Schu­bert: Arpeg­gione Sonata; Nacht und Träume (arr. Isserlis) Steven Isserlis (cello),

Dénes Vár­jon (pi­ano)

Hype­r­ion CDA 68227 77:21 mins

We have friend­ships to thank for these mirac­u­lous, anoma­lous cello sonatas: cel­list Au­guste Fran­chomme in­spired Chopin’s mag­nif­i­cent, com­plex late work, while Schu­bert’s poignant mas­ter­piece was for the ec­cen­tric arpeg­gione-play­ing Vin­cent Schus­ter. There are plenty of good record­ings: Truls Mørk and Kathryn Stott of­fer poise and pro­fun­dity, Pi­eter Wis­pel­wey achieves vi­o­lin­is­tic bril­liance on gut strings, and Rostropovich left in­deli­ble read­ings with Arg­erich and Brit­ten re­spec­tively. Isserlis’s in­sis­tence on an 1851 Erard pi­ano lends this record­ing its dis­tinc­tive at­mos­phere and re­bal­ances the score, the sinewy cello ideally matched to a slightly brit­tle pi­ano.

Chopin’s Sonata has been lumped with the Rach­mani­nov as a pi­ano sonata with lyric cello ob­bli­gato. The ex­change be­tween the in­stru­ments is, in fact, in­tensely in­tri­cate, and Vár­jon and Isserlis shine a light into cor­ners of the score pre­vi­ously swathed in Stein­way vel­vet. Both in­ter­ro­gate the richly-worked, bal­lade-like first move­ment with sear­ing in­tel­li­gence and tight rhyth­mic ten­sion, un­leash­ing its wild volatil­ity. ★ow char­ac­ter­is­tic that a ca­den­tial fig­ure which in most record­ings feels pause-like is, for Isserlis, the be­gin­ning of a new story. But fever­ish dy­namism is con­trasted with mo­ments of ex­quis­ite po­etry: a blis­ter­ing, nervy scherzo with a trio that re­spects Chopin’s orig­i­nal mark­ing of più lento; and the sub­lime Largo, here de­liv­ered with heart­break­ing sim­plic­ity. Per­haps only in the fi­nale I missed the sheer tu­mult af­forded by a Stein­way.

The solemn in­no­cence of Schu­bert’s Arpeg­gione is pre­fig­ured here by Isserlis’s ar­range­ment of Chopin’s achingly beau­ti­ful ‘Nie ma czego trzeba’. Again, in this Sonata, the duo of­fer grace­ful trans­parency, lithe re­fine­ment with a com­pelling edgi­ness. Schu­bert’s dances cast dark shad­ows, tears glis­ten through the Ada­gio’s con­sol­ing melodies. Spell­bind­ing. Helen Wal­lace PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★★★ RECORD­ING ★★★★

Chart­ing Men­delssohn: the Doric Quar­tet whets the lis­tener’s ap­petite for more

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