Movement 1: Allegro maestoso ma appassionato
Movement 2: Adagio con gran affetto – Più mosso assai
Movement 3: Allegro (un poco scherzando)
The central Adagio con gran affetto, in D flat major, begins almost like an operatic scena, with brooding piano chords and a recitative-like cello line. It reaches heights of eloquence without committing itself to a definite melodic shape. A quicker, impassioned middle section (Più mosso assai) deploys mysterious tremolandi in the cello’s low register until a repeated D flat pedal leads back to the opening music, which is now much developed and extended, the cello and piano in serious and melancholic dialogue. A descending triplet figure that featured in the opening span is drawn upon for melodic and accompanimental figuration as the movement rises to a lyrical climax and then evanesces into autumnal shadow.
The last movement is marked Allegro (un poco scherzando) but the ambling character of its opening tune shows Reger had paid close attention to the finale of Brahms’s Op 99 Cello Sonata (in the same key). However the contrasting material has a definite ‘scherzo’ aspect to it, both lively and playful. Also Brahmsian are the pizzicati in the cello as the scherzando music combines with the broader finale theme. The movement progresses in steadily more strenuous (but also good-humoured) vein. Just before the coda there is a moment of quiet reflection that brings home how the opening phrase of the finale theme echoes that of the first movement’s first subject, before the tumultuous closing bars. In the final cadence the piano alludes to the dotted figure with which the sonata had begun.
from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2008