Hyperion Records

Sonata for cello and piano in A minor, Op 40

'Boëllmann & Godard: Cello Sonatas' (CDA66888)
Boëllmann & Godard: Cello Sonatas
Movement 1: Maestoso – Allegro con fuoco
Movement 2: Andante
Movement 3: Allegro molto – Poco animato

Sonata for cello and piano in A minor, Op 40
Virtuosity and modality are two elements in the A minor Cello Sonata. But our first surprise may be the range of minor keys explored by the first movement’s introduction, and the variety of almost (but not quite) Wagnerian harmonic sideslips. The flattened seventh is a feature of the main theme, as the long note in the middle of the bar is of the second theme – a favourite device of late nineteenth-century French composers. The development cleverly uses the minor-key explorations of the introduction to new effect.

The theme of the slow movement gives the impression of being about to break into recitative, as the cello’s phrases habitually begin with a rest on the first downbeat. This slight uneasiness is calmed in the beautiful central section, which inhabits a Duparc-like dream-world, before strenuous times return. The occasional harmonic corner suggests that Boëllmann had looked at the works of that great master of French organ writing, César Franck. The opening theme of the last movement not only provides further evidence of modal thinking, in an A minor with F sharps and G naturals, but also cunningly shows solidarity with the opening themes of the two previous movements: with the upbeat rhythm of the second movement, and with the triplet motion of the first. A chorale-like passage near the end of the movement subscribes to a familiar pattern in French music (see, for example, the finale of Saint-Saëns’s Third Violin Concerto), but this is merely a springboard for further rhythmic agitation, and the work ends, not in a triumphant A major, but in an A minor which perhaps reflects those searching minor keys in the introduction.

from notes by Roger Nichols © 1996

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