MYASKOVSKY; RACHMANINOV Cello Sonatas
Bruno Philippe is still only 25 but you wouldn’t guess from the maturity of his musical thinking, which is coupled with a songfulness and ravishing sound – essential qualities for Rachmaninov. We get not only the G minor Sonata but the slighter Prelude and ‘Danse orientale’, Op 2, which are well characterised without being overdone. Jérôme Ducros also contributes a nuanced reading of that piece the composer grew to loathe: his C sharp minor Prelude, Op 3 No 2.
In the Sonata itself, Philippe gives Weilerstein a run for her money in the way he moulds the opening movement, his penchant for cantabile playing put to fine use in the Allegro moderato’s dreamier moments – sample from 11'30" of track 6 (they both, incidentally, include the exposition repeat, which Isserlis omits).
The scherzo is a mix of darting energy, well set up by Ducros, and unashamed melodic lusciousness, though Isserlis and Hough make even more of the contrast, the latter not afraid to take things down to a murmur. Hough also sets the scene for the Andante with a poetry that Ducros can’t quite match. Barnatan is also very inward at the outset, allowing Weilerstein to join the sighing phrases in the most potent way possible. That said, Philippe gives the melody a warmth that is ravishing. Isserlis and Hough really go for the finale, emphasising its churning energy. Philippe and Ducros dwell a little more on its lyrical aspects but such is the colour and reactivity on display that it’s a very absorbing journey and the close – skittish, then lyrical, then a final push through to the double bar line – is thrilling indeed.
How refreshing to have this sonata coupled with Myaskovsky’s First Cello Sonata, a rarity in the studio. Cast in two movements, it was written in 1911, the year that he graduated from the St Petersburg Conservatoire, and subsequently revised. It begins with a recitative-like passage for cello against simple piano accompaniment and from then on it is generally the cello that has the more prominent role in the first movement. There are many compelling moments: listen to the way Philippe relishes the ascent into the cello’s higher register (from 5'20", track 1). From the lyricism of the first movement, Myaskovsky leads, via a linking passage, to a more febrile second. This contrasts a churning emotionalism with more contemplative writing, cello and piano now very much equal partners. Throughout, Philippe and Ducros play with absolute conviction and make the strongest possible case for the piece.