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Hyperion Records

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Postcard depicting Brahms composing his Symphony No 1 (c1900). Austrian School, 20th century
Private Collection / Archives Charmet / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDS44331/42
Recording details: November 1984
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: April 1986
Total duration: 26 minutes 46 seconds

'The pick of this crop has to be Brahms's Complete Chamber Music from Hyperion. Spanning more than two decades, this box contains the finest, mainly British, performances, some very recent … Brahms's two dozen chamber works are among his greatest achievements, and yield little or nothing in quality to the better known output of Mozart and Beethoven. This box contains much buried treasure' (The Mail on Sunday)

'Immerse yourself in this set of 12 CDs of Brahms's chamber music … in the last 25 years, Hyperion has managed to persuade some of the finest of chamber musicians to reveal their affection for Brahms in recordings of remarkably consistent quality … altogether life affirming music in life enhancing performances: surely one of the best buys of the year?' (BBC Music Magazine)

'This magnificent 12-CD collection … Marc-André Hamelin and the Leopold String Trio find the right gypsy touch in the First Piano Quartet … the Florestan Trio is movingly intense in the piano trios … Lawrence Power's playing of the viola alternative to the clarinet sonatas is magical. And there's much more! A superb bargain' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Stellar artists, fine sound, splendid presentation. Superb!' (ClassicalSource.com)

Cello Sonata No 2 in F major, Op 99
composer
Summer 1886; written for Robert Hausmann

Allegro vivace  [8'32]
Allegro molto  [4'23]

Other recordings available for download
Steven Isserlis (cello), Stephen Hough (piano)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
If the First Sonata shows Brahms the young man presenting his credentials as a scholar and a mature gentleman, the Cello Sonata No 2 in F major Op 99 is the work of an older man composing music with all the passion and sweep of youth. Written – along with the Second Violin Sonata and Third Piano Trio – during a productive summer in Switzerland in 1886, the F major Sonata was composed for Hausmann, who was renowned for his large and virile tone. The first movement is extraordinarily bold, the two instruments pitted against each other in a wild, storm-tossed sea of tremolandi. Curiously, the slow movement, in the near-but-unrelated key of F sharp major, may derive from a discarded movement originally written for the E minor Sonata. That movement is now lost, but there are a couple of clues that at least suggest a connection; the similarity of the third subject of this slow movement to that of the E minor’s first movement, and the importance of the minor sixth in this middle section and coda, are striking – perhaps too much so to be coincidental. The rich style, however, is definitely late Brahms; if this movement did originate in an earlier work, he must have done some extensive revision before incorporating it. The Allegro passionato is a wonderfully powerful and dark scherzo; a friend of Brahms’s wrote to him (rather irreverently) that she could detect him here ‘humming and snorting continually’ – a pleasant image. The last movement, like that of the Second Piano Concerto, is almost startling in its lightness of touch, unexpected within this massive framework.

Not everybody was totally convinced by the premiere, given in Vienna by Hausmann and the composer in November 1886. ‘What is music, today, what is harmony, what is melody, what is rhythm, what is form’, wrote Hugo Wolf in the Wiener Salonblatt, ‘if this tohuwabohu [total chaos] is seriously accepted as music? If, however, Herr Dr Johannes Brahms is set on mystifying his worshippers with this newest work, if he is out to have some fun with their brainless veneration, then that is something else again, and we admire in Herr Brahms the greatest charlatan of this century and of all centuries to come.’ Hmm … perhaps it’s no wonder that Wolf ended his days in a mental asylum. But cellists, too, complained, concerned about the difficulty of making themselves heard over the piano’s tremolandi in the first movement; a story is told of some less-than-distinguished lady cellist playing it through with Brahms, and complaining of being unable to hear herself. ‘You were lucky!’ was Brahms’s caustic response. (This story is also told about the last movement of the E minor Sonata; it is true that both movements need careful handling from both players from the point of view of balance.) Today, however, the F major Sonata is quite rightly held as a highpoint in late nineteenth-century chamber music.

from notes by Steven Isserlis © 2005


Other albums featuring this work
'Brahms: Cello Sonatas' (CDA66159)
Brahms: Cello Sonatas
MP3 £5.99FLAC £5.99ALAC £5.99Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66159  Archive Service; also available on CDS44331/42  
'Brahms: Cello Sonatas' (CDA67529)
Brahms: Cello Sonatas

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