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Track(s) taken from CDA67529

Cello Sonata No 1 in E minor, Op 38

composed in 1862 as Allegro, Adagio and Allegretto; in 1865 Brahms added the finale and removed the original Adagio

Steven Isserlis (cello), Stephen Hough (piano)
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 22 seconds

Cover artwork: The Wave (1917) by Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson (1889-1946)
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund, USA / Bridgeman Art Library, London

Other recordings available for download

Steven Isserlis (cello), Peter Evans (piano)


'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)
The Cello Sonata No 1 in E minor Op 38 was started in 1862, when Brahms was not yet thirty, with the finale being added to the long-completed first two movements in 1865. This, his first surviving duo-sonata, is an important work, in some ways a turning-point. His previous sonata had been the Third Piano Sonata, Op 5, a work of tempestuous youth, written in 1853 and prefaced by a quotation from the romantic poetry of Sternau. The cello sonata is utterly different; it is almost an ‘historical sonata’, its roots firmly planted in the music of the past – as if Brahms was turning his back on his wild young self. The only obvious quotation is from Bach’s Art of Fugue (although the main theme of the menuetto bears a strong resemblance to that of the scherzo of Beethoven’s famous Cello Sonata in A major). This is Brahms staking his claim as the greatest ‘classical romantic’ composer of chamber music, a worthy successor to his heroes from other epochs.

The first movement, with its glorious sunset coda in E major (Brahms was the master of musical sunsets) is linked to the other two movements chiefly through the dominance of the expressive minor sixth that makes its first appearance in the second bar of the work, and continues throughout the sonata. The second movement, a charming minuet and trio, seems to pay nostalgic tribute to the world of Mozart – or perhaps to that of Schubert, with whose music Brahms was somewhat obsessed at this period. The last movement, a robust mixture of fugue and sonata form, takes its main theme from Contrapunctus 13 from the Art of Fugue – as if Brahms is looking further backwards in time as the sonata progresses.

from notes by Steven Isserlis © 2005

Commencée en 1862 par un Brahms qui n’avait pas encore trente ans, la Sonate pour violoncelle no 1 en mi mineur, op. 38 ne reçut un finale qu’en 1865, soit bien après l’achèvement des deux premiers mouvements. Première sonate en duo de Brahms à nous être parvenue, cette œuvre est importante et marque, d’une certaine manière, un tournant, après la Sonate pour piano no 3, op. 5 (1853), page de jeunesse tempétueuse que préfaçait une citation de la poésie romantique de Sternau. La sonate, op. 38 est profondément différente: il s’agit presque d’une «sonate historique», fermement enracinée dans la musique du passé – comme si Brahms tournait le dos à sa folle jeunesse. La seule citation manifeste émane de l’Art de la fugue de Bach (même si le thème principal des mesures du menuetto ressemble beaucoup à celui du scherzo de la fameuse Sonate pour violoncelle en la majeur de Beethoven). Ici, Brahms justifie son titre de plus grand compositeur de musique de chambre «romantique classique», digne successeur de ses héros d’antan.

Le premier mouvement, avec sa glorieuse coda crépusculaire en mi majeur (Brahms fut le maître absolu des couchers de soleil musicaux), se rattache aux deux autres mouvements surtout par la prépondérance de l’expressive sixte mineure, qui apparaît pour la première fois à la deuxième mesure et traverse l’œuvre de part en part. Le deuxième mouvement, un charmant menuet et trio, semble rendre un nostalgique hommage à l’univers de Mozart – à moins que ce ne soit à celui de Schubert, dont la musique obsédait alors quelque peu Brahms. Le dernier mouvement, un robuste mélange de fugue et de forme sonate, emprunte son thème principal au Contrapunctus 13 de l’Art de la fugue – comme si Brahms reculait dans le temps à mesure que la sonate, elle, avançait.

extrait des notes rédigées par Steven Isserlis © 2005
Français: Hypérion

Die Cellosonate Nr. 1 in e-Moll op. 38 nahm Brahms 1862 in Angriff, als er noch keine dreißig Jahre alt war, und das Finale fügte er den lange zuvor fertig gestellten ersten beiden Sätzen 1865 hinzu. Dies, seine erste erhaltene Duosonate, ist ein bedeutendes Werk, das in mancher Hinsicht einen Wendepunkt markiert. Seine vorhergehende Komposition in dieser Gattung war die Dritte Klaviersonate op. 5, ein stürmisches Jugendwerk, das 1853 entstand und mit einem Zitat aus der romantischen Dichtung Sternaus überschrieben war. Die Cellosonate ist ganz anders; man könnte fast sagen, es handele sich um eine „historische“ Sonate, denn sie ist fest in der Musik der Vergangenheit verwurzelt – als wolle Brahms seiner wilden Jugend den Rücken kehren. Das einzige offensichtliche Zitat stammt aus Bachs Kunst der Fuge (auch wenn das Hauptthema des Menuetts dem des Scherzos aus Beethovens berühmter Cellosonate in A-Dur doch sehr ähnelt). Hier meldet Brahms seinen Anspruch auf den Titel des größten „klassisch-romantischen“ Kammermusikkomponisten an, als würdiger Nachfolger seiner Vorbilder aus vergangenen Epochen.

Der erste Satz mit seiner großartigen Sonnenuntergangscoda in E-Dur (Brahms war der Meister musikalischer Sonnenuntergänge) ist mit den anderen beiden Sätzen vorwiegend durch die Dominanz der ausdrucksvollen kleinen Sexte verbunden, die erstmals im zweiten Takt des Werks auftaucht und sich die ganze Sonate hindurch fortsetzt. Der zweite Satz, ein charmantes Menuett mit Trio, scheint voller Nostalgie der Welt Mozarts zu huldigen – oder womöglich jener Schuberts, von dessen Musik Brahms zu jener Zeit geradezu besessen war. Der Schlusssatz, eine robuste Mixtur von Fuge und Sonatenform, entnimmt sein Hauptthema dem Contrapunctus 13 aus der Kunst der Fuge – als blicke Brahms im Verlauf der Sonate immer weiter in die Vergangenheit zurück.

aus dem Begleittext von Steven Isserlis © 2005
Deutsch: Anne Steeb/Bernd Müller

Other albums featuring this work

Brahms: Cello Sonatas
CDA66159Archive Service
Brahms: The Complete Chamber Music
CDS44331/42Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
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