MENDELSSOHN Works for Cello and Piano
It’s fair to say that the world is not short of Mendelssohn cello-and-piano recital recordings. But although Poltéra and Brautigam aren’t taking us down any lesser trodden repertoire paths here, this is an outstanding disc.
For a start the performances themselves are very fine. Poltéra brings a storyteller’s big-picture shaping to movements and pieces as a whole, a wide dynamic range and, at the micro-level, consistently beautiful phrasing and shading. Brautigam’s playing is every bit as enjoyable with his nimbly elegant and eloquent partnering.
What really sets the seal on the disc’s overall distinctiveness, however, is the wider-angle view, beginning with the instruments themselves. In fact, Poltéra’s 1711 ‘Mara’ Stradivari cello has a star quality all of its own with its softly gravelly, sonorous depths and the tonal clarity of its upper-register richness. Likewise, while with Brautigam on the ticket it was hardly going to be a surprise to hear the unmistakable tones of a period keyboard, his 1830 Pleyel copy is still a delight; indeed, it’s a full-on asset when Mendelssohn’s piano-writing becomes almost concerto-like in its bravura, allowing Brautigam to give his all in moments such as Sonata No 1’s outer movements without the cello ever being overwhelmed.
The engineering is lovely too. Playable on SACD as well as stereo, the acoustic balance leaves a satisfyingly amount of Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz’s Reitstadel concert hall in the mix, both instruments recorded relatively close, with Poltéra’s cello ever so slightly out in front. This does mean you’re likely to hear Poltéra’s intakes of breath and some fingerboard action, but not to an off-putting extent; and the advantage of this set-up is pizzicatos that jump deliciously out at you. A really classy overall package that comes highly recommended.