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Track(s) taken from CDA67534

Sonata for cello and piano in D minor, Op 40

December 1934

Alban Gerhardt (cello), Steven Osborne (piano)
Recording details: August 2005
Wigmore Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: June 2006
Total duration: 29 minutes 55 seconds

Cover artwork: Young Boy Holding a Skull (detail) (1893) by Magnus Enckell (1870-1925)
Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki / Central Art Archives, Helsinki / Matti Janas

Other recordings available for download

Jamie Walton (cello), Daniel Grimwood (piano)


'It is done with trememdous drama and conviction and a dynamic range that will challenge your ears and speakers' (American Record Guide)

'Schnittke is Shostakovich’s successor in life, art and on this CD. Gerhardt and Osborne play the finale of the older composer’s sonata with a beautiful fluency, highlighting the cello’s running semiquavers and the piano’s pinging scales, which then reappear in the thrilling presto of the younger’s homage-filled work. There could have been more grit in Schnittke’s whirlwind, but the heart-clenching sorrow the duo depicts elsewhere, particularly in the Madrigal for Oleg Kagan, is a compensation. The programme ends lightly with Shostakovich’s Eight Pieces for Cello and Piano, which are short, catchy, childish and fun' (The Times)

'The peformers give vivid and briliant delineations in this well-balanced recording' (The Strad)

'Beautifully recorded and played, this is a disc that enchants simply through the sound it makes. Both Gerhardt and Osborne are noted especially for their poetic insights and whenever the music turns introspective here they cast a magic spell so as to have one hanging on to their every note' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Gerhardt and Osborne are perfectly attuned to the music's nuances and more expressive gestures … simply put, this is the most convincing version of this sonata I've ever heard' (Fanfare, USA)

'I cannot recommend this disc enough. True, it is full-price, but I bet you will play it many more times than a multitude of super-budgets. Superb' (MusicWeb International)

'Dmitri Shostakovich carved the scherzo of his Sonata in D minor for Violoncello and Piano Op 40 out of a dizzy deathsome spin. The staccato in the piano part sounds like the bony rattle of a xylophone. Evil shades haunt the harmonic phrases of the cello in the trio. After just three and a half minutes the whole thing is over: as quick as flash, malicious, this little dance. But for the slow introduction to the following Largo, Shostakovich created a kind of never-ending melody. It describes a generous ascending arch: a cello recitative, supported only by a few pillars of piano chords. Hardly has one noticed that a phrase has ended than it begins all over again. Alban Gerhardt plays this quasi-recitative at only half-volume, as if speaking aside, into the backstage area. The elegy that then arises is sung bloomingly and magnificently from the full breast of the cello, with the passion of a full-vibrato tone … but because this D minor sonata was actually the first major work of chamber music by Shostakovich that he himself let stand; because―in four movements, faithful to sonata form, with regular recapitulations―it also has definite conservative-romantic features and seems to lay aside anything would-be revolutionary; for these reasons there is also a strong temptation to see it as an early witness of the biographical-compositional rearguard action―and to interpret it correspondingly, highlighting its contrasts. The great young Berlin cello virtuoso, Alban Gerhardt, and his piano accompanist, Steven Osborne, are not exaggerating when they do so. Their reading is still differentiated, always closer to the sound-speech of the composer’s text than to extra-musical hints and suggestions. The range of expressive variants is admirably wide, the rhythmic precision and the cleverly balanced dynamics in the way they play together is no less impressive than the range of pianistic and cellistic tone colours. In this presentation, simply everything is in keeping. The duo also arranges the cello sonata of Alfred Schnittke, written for Nathalia Gutman in 1978, in a lucid and clear fashion, with its melancholy twelve-tone sequence at the beginning and the presto drive threatening to become a tempest in the middle. How this duo gives itself to this deadly long-distance run and still insists on beauty of tone is something one just has to have heard. And the small 'encores' on the album? Every one of them a poem in itself' (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany)

'Alban Gerhardt came late to the instrument, but now his mastery of it is both virtuoso and disrespectful, both individual and intellectual. His play is direct and boisterous, but then again astonishingly soft and open to all sorts of fleeting suggestions. He is not a paragon of refinement, but lives music. That can be heard again in his unfeigned enthusiasm for the bitter-sweet cello sonatas of Dmitri Shostakovich and Alfred Schnittke, where he is energetically supported at the piano by Steven Osborne. Gerhardt enjoys a flowering phrase but also a breathy staccato, he plays with full tone and also knows how to whisper. But at all times he is master of the cello, oscillating miraculously between discipline and freedom' (Die Welt, Germany)

'Because Gerhardt and Osborne do not blast out Shostakovich’s music statically and obsessively, and do not make him play the same old role of the eternally divided soul with sewing-machine rhythms and tortured pathos, they take him seriously as a sound painter in chamber-music style. This fabulous recording is meaningfully rounded out with Alfred Schnittke’s sonata for cello and piano, the very piece that followed Shostakovich, and two pieces by Schnittke for solo cello, including a wonderful pale-moonlight madrigal with a static melodic pattern, and then, finally, arrangements of some Shostakovich bagatelles. In all: a well-conceived production, expressive playing, generously packed (80 minutes)―a must-buy' (Wirdschaftswoche, Germany)
When Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata received its premiere in December 1934, many of his contemporaries were struck by its conservative language. His image as the Soviet Union’s enfant terrible had not yet faded despite his very public return to a more accessible musical language in his acclaimed opera Lady Macbeth, premiered earlier that year. Around this time Shostakovich wrote various articles describing his search for a simple, clear and expressive language. Though that search was to take him into the deeply ambivalent world of the Fourth Symphony of 1936, the Cello Sonata is clearly an early manifestation of this new trend.

Right from the start, the Sonata feels like a new departure. Its gently rocking opening doesn’t sound like anything Shostakovich had written before; the very self-conscious repeat of the sonata exposition is almost a declaration of faith in Classical first principles. And, though Shostakovich had cancelled further lucrative work in film in order to concentrate on it, the Sonata is permeated with the intonations of popular music and Lady Macbeth. Instead of the yearning arioso-writing that can be heard in the contemporaneous Moderato for cello and piano, the Sonata’s Largo shows a stronger kinship with the convicts’ song that concludes the opera, echoing it strongly in its four-bar phrasing, its melodic shape and even at one point by a close allusion. In the cheekily song-like finale Shostakovich reverts to the high spirits of the previous year’s First Piano Concerto, keeping the manic spirit of music-hall only just at arm’s length. Most remarkable of all, though, is the faux-naif second-movement scherzo, with its stark, almost peasant-like roughness. At no point does it evoke Russian folk song; in fact, its heavy repeated rhythms and four-square phrases are more reminiscent of German or Austrian dances as refracted through the lens of Schubert, Brahms or Mahler. Notwithstanding all these influences, there is a distinctly urban swagger to the scherzo, suggesting that here, once again, Shostakovich the film composer is not far away.

from notes by Pauline Fairclough © 2006

À sa création, en décembre 1934, la Sonate pour violoncelle de Chostakovitch frappa par son langage conservateur. Le compositeur restait l’enfant terrible de l’Union Soviétique, malgré un retour très populaire à un langage musical plus accessible dans son opéra à succés Lady Macbeth, créé un peu plus tôt cette année-là. Vers la même époque, il écrivit divers articles pour dépeindre sa quête d’une langue simple, claire et expressive, dont la Sonate pour violoncelle est à l’évidence une manifestation précoce—même si cette nouvelle tendance devait l’entraîner dans l’univers profondément ambivalent de la Symphonie no 4 (1936).

D’emblée, la Sonate s’apparente à un nouveau départ. Son ouverture doucement berçante ne ressemble à rien de ce que Chostakovitch a écrit jusque là: la répétition très appuyée de l’exposition de la Sonate sonne presque comme une déclaration de foi dans les grands principes classiques. Et Chostakovitch avait beau avoir annulé de lucratives musiques de films pour se consacrer à elle, cette sonate est imprégnée d’intonations de musique populaire et de Lady Macbeth. À l’écriture arioso languissante du Moderato contemporain pour violoncelle et piano, le Largo de la sonate préfère une parenté avec le chant du forçat qui conclut l’opéra, comme l’attestent son phrasé de quatre mesures, son modèle mélodique et même une allusion directe. Dans le finale effrontément chantant, Chostakovitch retrouve la pétulance du Concerto pour piano no 1 de l’année passée—le fol esprit du music-hall n’est jamais bien loin—, même si le moment le plus remarquable est le scherzo du deuxième mouvement, faussement naïf, avec sa rudesse âpre, presque paysanne, mais sans jamais évoquer les chants populaires russes: en réalité, ses lourds rythmes répétés et ses phrases carrées rappellent plus les danses allemandes ou autrichiennes passées par le prisme de Schubert, de Brahms ou de Mahler. Toutes ces influences n’empêchent pas une fanfaronnade nettement urbaine, preuve que, là encore, le compositeur de musiques de films n’est pas loin.

extrait des notes rédigées par Pauline Fairclough © 2006
Français: Hypérion

Als Schostakowitsch’ Violoncellosonate im Dezember 1934 uraufgeführt wurde, bemerkten viele Zuhörer die konservative musikalische Sprache. Die Vorstellung vom Komponisten als Sowjetunions Enfant terrible war trotz Schostakowitsch’ sehr öffentlicher Rückkehr zu einer zugänglicheren musikalischen Ausdrucksweise in seiner im gleichen Jahr aufgeführten, hochgelobten Oper Lady Macbeth noch nicht verblasst. Ungefähr zu dieser Zeit schrieb der Komponist diverse Artikel, in denen er seine Suche nach einer einfachen, klaren und expressiven Sprache beschrieb. Die Violoncellosonate ist eindeutig ein frühes Beispiel für diesen neuen Trend. (Diese Suche sollte ihn allerdings auch in die äußerst ambivalente Welt der 4. Sinfonie von 1936 führen.)

Von Anfang an spürt man, dass die Sonate ein neues Kapitel einleitet. Ihre sanft wiegende Einleitung lässt sich mit nichts anderem aus Schostakowitsch’ bisher Komponierten vergleichen. Die sehr selbstbewusste Wiederholung der Sonatenexposition wirkt fast wie ein Glaubensbekenntnis an die Grundprinzipien der Klassik. Obwohl Schostakowitsch mit seiner Ablehnung lukrativer Filmmusikaufträge und seiner Konzentration auf die Sonate anzudeuten schien, dass er ein schwergewichtiges und emotional tiefschürfendes Werk zu komponieren gedachte, hört man im gesamten Werk Anklänge an volkstümliche Musik und den leichteren Ton aus Lady Macbeth. Statt des sehnsuchtsvollen Arioso-Stils, dem man in dem gleichzeitig entstandenen Moderato für Violoncello und Klavier begegnet, weist das Largo der Sonate eine stärkere Ähnlichkeit mit dem die Oper beschließenden Lied der Gefangenen auf. Beiden ist eine viertaktige Phrasierung und gewisse melodische Gestalt gemein, und an einer Stelle spielt das Largo sogar direkt auf das Gefangenenlied an. In dem frech liedhaften Schlusssatz kehrt Schostakowitsch zu der guten Laune aus dem im Jahr zuvor entstandenen 1. Klavierkonzert zurück, wobei er sich der manischen Stimmung eines Varieteetheaters nur mit Mühe enthalten kann. Am bemerkenswertesten ist jedoch der scheinbar naive zweite Satz, ein Scherzo, mit seiner steifen, fast bäuerlichen Ungeschliffenheit. Nirgends klingt es nach russischem Volkslied. Die schwerfälligen wiederholten Rhythmen und vierkantigen Phrasen erinnern eher an deutsche oder österreichische Tänze, gebrochen im musikalischen Prisma eines Schuberts, Brahms oder Mahlers. Trotz dieser Einflüsse zeichnet sich das Scherzo durch einen deutlich städtischen Zug aus, der einmal mehr bezeugt, dass der Filmmusikkomponist Schostakowitsch seine Hand im Spiel hatte.

aus dem Begleittext von Pauline Fairclough © 2006
Deutsch: Elke Hockings

Other albums featuring this work

Shostakovich, Britten & Prokofiev: Cello Sonatas
Studio Master: SIGCD274Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
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