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Hyperion Records

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The Wave (1917) by Christopher Richard Wayne Nevinson (1889-1946)
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund, USA / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67529
Recording details: May 2005
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Produced by Philip Traugott
Engineered by Ben Connellan
Release date: November 2005
Total duration: 25 minutes 25 seconds

'deeply considered, immensely satisfying accounts. Isserlis and Hough make a formidable team and I look forward to more duo sonatas' (Gramophone)

'[Isserlis's] current recording with Hough displaces all others: at last two musicians have taken this work and delivered a spontaneous stream of musical dialectic that makes perfect sense' (BBC Music Magazine)

'there is no doubting the sweep and passion, or the tenderness and intimacy, of their performance. These two outstanding musicians give an equally fine account of the earlier E minor sonata. In both works, and in some pleasing miniatures by Dvorak and Suk, they interact with the combined sensitivity and freedom of true chamber-music players' (The Sunday Times)

'Isserlis and Hough are perfectly matched here, offering poetic, tender and generous spirited music-making. Both have a distinctive luminescence of tone, enabling them to place emphasis on beauty, intimacy and phrasing that really speaks' (Classic FM Magazine)

'You won't find a finer or more intelligent partnership than Steven Isserlis and Stephen Hough to play these mainstays of the cello repertory, nor perhaps a more imaginative or generous supporting programme. This is Brahms at its best' (The Strad)

'an evocative performance by Isserlis and his partner Stephen Hough, which marries effusive warmth and inward eloquence' (The Evening Standard)

'One of the most happily balanced chamber music discs I have auditioned in some time, this partnership between Steven Isserlis and Stephen Hough, provides some thoroughly idiomatic Brahms sonatas, played with alternate tenderness and fury, as each piece requires. Hough's piano part proves as ravishing as Isserlis' commanding cello; and in a medium in which competition abounds … that is saying something. The Adagio affetuoso of the F Major Sonata may warrant your attentions at repeated hearings…this disc, while not specifically designated SACD, packs a resonance and liquid punch competitive with the finest sound imaging. Ravishing playing from the first notes, these collaborations testify to a meeting of kindred spirits on all levels. The liner notes by Isserlis capture the tenor of the pieces with a propriety bordering on veneration' (Audiophile Audition, USA)

'Mr Isserlis molds his sound with a heartbreaking delicacy. You've never heard a cellist dare to take the lyrical opening of the first sonata so quietly, or inflect it so subtly. This player can also cut loose and raise the roof when it's needed. You can't pussyfoot through a movement in Brahms, and Mr Isserlis doesn't try' (The Dallas Morning News)

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

Allegro vivace  [7'58]
Allegro molto  [4'10]

Other recordings available for download
Steven Isserlis (cello), Peter Evans (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' (CDA30005)
Brahms: Cello Sonatas
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'Brahms: Cello Sonatas' (CDA66159)
Brahms: Cello Sonatas
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'Brahms: The Complete Chamber Music' (CDS44331/42)
Brahms: The Complete Chamber Music
MP3 £35.00FLAC £35.00ALAC £35.00Buy by post £40.00 CDS44331/42  12CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  

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