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Hyperion Records

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Dushenka in Flight (1808) by Fedor Petrovich Tolstoy (1783-1873)
Hermitage, St Petersburg, Russia / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67660
Recording details: January 2008
Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: April 2009
Total duration: 28 minutes 41 seconds

'These two lavishly inventive and free-flowing cello sonatas reveal how sorely underestimated Rubinstein's legacy has been. They are more than equivalent to the cello sonatas of Chopin, Mendelssohn and Rachmaninov … in Jiří Bárta's hands it speaks to us across the centuries with a radiant ardour' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Two cello sonatas [Rubinstein's] are undeniably beautiful and are played with much expertise by these fine players' (American Record Guide)

'Bárta and Milne produce glorious readings of both works, each seeming to relish the sonorities he is producing, Bárta spinning effortless arches of sound and Milne managing to combine warmth and detail. The Hyperion recording is sensitive and truthful … warmly recommended' (International Record Review)

'Performances of rare precision, fluency, and Romantic warmth' (Fanfare, USA)

Cello Sonata No 1 in D major, Op 18

Allegro moderato  [11'55]
Moderato assai  [6'56]
Moderato  [9'50]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Rubinstein was only in his early twenties when he composed the Cello Sonata No 1 in D major, Op 18, in 1852, but it is a fairly substantial work which not unnaturally requires a pianist of heroic stature as well as a first-rate cellist. If Rubinstein’s idiom is more reminiscent of Mendelssohn than Russian folk-melody, he still contrives to sound a personal note with touches of Slavic ardour. The first movement is laid out on a large scale, with three principal themes: an elegantly, rather plaintively lyrical first subject announced by the cello and distinguished by a prominent dotted rhythm, a more urgent Animato transition theme, and a broad, singing second subject first heard quietly on the cello against chorale-like piano chords. (When the piano takes it up the cello has a pizzicato accompaniment.) All three elements are pressed into service in a passionate and eventful development that culminates in a kind of solo cadenza for the cello. This spills over into the recapitulation, where the first subject reappears in octaves on the piano against the cello’s figurations. The recapitulation carries on into a coda that continues the process of development, the piano’s chords sounding against a sustained low cello trill before the Presto concluding bars.

The sonata has only three movements, and the central one, marked Moderato assai, was often played on its own in the nineteenth century; it is a kind of intermezzo, and one can see why it might have become a favourite morceau. The first section is in a lilting barcarolle rhythm which shows off Rubinstein’s flair for elegant melody; the second (Con moto moderato) is a shimmering, rippling affair involving a kind of firefly flight of cello tremolandi, harped chords and undulating left-hand figuration in the piano. In the final section these two elements are skilfully alternated—in an evocation perhaps of the Venetian lagoons.

Although the finale is marked merely Moderato, it is a real virtuoso piece, especially for the pianist, who has an almost ceaseless torrent of triplet figurations to sustain. Their uneasy chromatic oscillations are taken up into the cello’s urgent first theme and are equally present in the second, shared between both instruments. A broader, more grandiose third theme also makes its presence felt in no uncertain terms, but for much of its length this finale is a kind of ‘wild ride’ that sweeps all before it up to the thrilling bravura finish, where the pace intensifies and the third theme returns to crown the work in an outburst of rhetorical fervour.

from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2009

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