MENDELSSOHN Complete Works for Cello and Piano (Marcy Rosen)
The cellist Marcy Rosen was a founding member of the Mendelssohn String Quartet and remained with the ensemble for more than three decades until its disbandment in 2009. The MSQ made relatively few recordings, alas, and most are currently out of print, but a lovely BIS CD of Mendelssohn’s two string quintets (with Juilliard Quartet veteran Robert Mann) gives a taste of their open-hearted, unfussy approach. Rosen’s new disc of the composer’s cello sonatas displays similar interpretative attributes.
These are predominantly lyrical performances. Rosen has a full, warm tone, and phrases with an emphasis on songlike legato that links the two sonatas and Variations concertantes to the composer’s many Songs Without Words. And, of course, in addition to the eight volumes of ‘songs’ he wrote for solo piano, there’s one for cello, too. Rosen’s reading of that miniature – Op 109 – is indicative of the entire programme. There’s an appealing ease and forthrightness to Rosen’s approach, but it seems rather too plain heard alongside the dramatically characterised accounts of Mischa Maisky and Sergio Tiempo (DG, A/02) or the quicksilver delicacy of Jan Vogler and Louis Lortie (Berlin Classics, 8/03).
I’m more impressed with Lydia Artymiw, whose rhythmic energy and pellucid tone provide an effective foil for the unrelieved mellowness of Rosen’s playing. Listen, for instance, to how elegantly the pianist articulates the minuet-like rhythms in the second movement of the First Sonata. This is no surprise, really, as Artymiw also has a long association with this composer’s music; her now nearly 40-year-old recording of the gorgeous Op 6 Sonata remains a favourite (Chandos, 9/83).
In sum, although these are unfailingly musical performances of Mendelssohn’s works for cello and piano, other recordings offer more in terms of fine detail and dramatic punch. If you find Maisky too fussy and Vogler too sleek, try Daniel Müller-Schott and Jonathan Gilad (Orfeo), or splurge for two separate discs by Alice Neary and Benjamin Frith – members of the Gould Trio – and you’ll get marvellous versions of the two piano trios to boot (Champs Hill, 11/14, 1/17).