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Cello Sonata in E major, Op 121

'Moscheles & Hummel: Cello Sonatas' (CDA67521)
Moscheles & Hummel: Cello Sonatas
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Movement 1: Allegro espressivo e appassionato
Movement 2: Scherzo 'ballabile': Allegretto quasi allegro
Movement 3: Ballade 'in böhmische Weise': Andantino
Movement 4: Allegro vivace, ma non troppo

Cello Sonata in E major, Op 121
The Cello Sonata, Moscheles’ second, was written in 1850–51, and published as ‘Sonate für Pianoforte und Violoncello’, Op 121. Giving the piano precedence in the title was a practice dating from classical times (and followed by both Mozart and Beethoven). But whereas Moscheles’ first sonata was published as ‘Grand Duo concertant for piano and cello or bassoon’, and indeed gave primacy to the piano and Moscheles’ virtuosity, the present work treats the two performers as equals. In 1851 the composer wrote:

I have been working very seriously on a sonata for piano and cello, and art, my beloved art stood a comforter at my side … Working on it I forgot all my worries; I wanted to be cheerful, then the music would have freshness. I have already played it with [Julius] Rietz and [Friedrich] Grützmacher … I am not thinking of publishing it yet—I like to set my compositions aside for a while so that they can finish fermenting, that is to say, so that after the heat of creation I can use the file a bit.

The opening Allegro is, as the markings qualifying it suggest, both expressive and impassioned, with rich and powerful piano writing. It ranges wide harmonically, with excursions into keys a third on either side of the main E major, first G sharp (notated as A flat for convenience) then C major, thus exploring a set of key relationships that had by the middle of the century become an important part of Romantic harmony. The subtitle of the Scherzo, ballabile, indicates the dance-like nature of a movement that moves between the major and minor modes of E, with a delightful tranquillo middle section, before settling for the major. For his third movement, Moscheles writes a Ballade which he subtitles, ‘in Bohemian manner’; he was born in Prague, and always retained fond memories of his upbringing in the city. The rhythmic snap in the melody—an accented short note followed by a long one—is characteristic of Bohemian folk music; the movement also follows the form of the dumka, at any rate as it was interpreted by Western musicians. In alternating fast and slow sections, such as Allegretto mingling with Andantino passages, Moscheles creates what is a kind of variation rondo form, decorated with coruscating piano writing. There are similar elements making a loose rondo in the finale, a busy virtuoso movement that includes a warmly lyrical melody in its ingredients.

from notes by John Warrack © 2006

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Details for CDA67521 track 4
Allegro vivace, ma non troppo
Recording date
16 February 2005
Recording venue
Wathen Hall, St Paul's School, Barnes, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Simon Eadon
Hyperion usage
  1. Moscheles & Hummel: Cello Sonatas (CDA67521)
    Disc 1 Track 4
    Release date: April 2006
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