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  Channel Classics -
  CCS SA 24707
  Brahms: Cello Sonatas - Wispelwey, Lazic
  Brahms: Cello Sonata in E minor Op. 38, Cello Sonata in D major Op. 78, Cello Sonata in F minor Op. 120 No. 1 (trans. Wispelwey)

Pieter Wispelwey (cello)
Dejan Lazic (piano)
Track listing:
  Classical - Chamber
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Review by krisjan July 14, 2007 (9 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Only one of the three works on this release was orginally written for cello and piano - the Op.38 sonata in e minor. The other two are transcriptions of the violin sonata Op.78 and the clarinet sonata Op.120/1. Taking the latter two works first, it was quite a shock hearing a familiar tune being played by an unfamiliar instrument. Of these two transcriptions, I think the violin sonata works best for the cello. I'm not one who insists on hearing a work performed only by the original instruments so I really enjoyed hearing Op.78 in this instrumentation. The cello is my favorite stringed instrument and it makes a striking impression in this recording. Wispelwey and Lazic provide a solid performance.

The Op.120/1 transcription is a bit less successful in this combination. The work is more somber and melancholy and the sonority of the cello is almost too much of a good thing. I find a similar conclusion when I hear this work in its other transcription for viola/piano. Brahms was right in scoring this for clarinet which I believe add more interest to the sound of the piece. I find the performance here to be a bit subdued.

As for Op.38, one must be aware that Wispelwey and Lazic make a big cut in the first movement. Compared to other versions, they lop off about 3 and a half minutes of music. I don't have a score but I imagine they have dropped an exposition repeat. Too bad since the disc could have easily accomodated the extra music. What they do play, they play very well. All the more disappointing that they left music out. I did some comparative listening to this along with Wick/Devoyan (Audite SACD) and Henckel/Westenholz (Bis AAD RBCD). Both of the latter play the complete first movement so immediately they get an edge over the Channel SACD. Of the three, I slightly prefer the Henkel/Westenholz on Bis - this is a really wonderful, romantic performance in great AAD sound. After that, I would place Wispelwey/Lazic who give a solid performance. I don't recommend the Audite - it is a bit boring and routine.

Now the sound. It is really important that the volume level be set correctly for this Channel release. It is recorded at a very high level so your normal listening volume will be too high from the outset. However, once the volume is set properly, the performers lock into place and the recording itself is outstanding. The full bodied sonority of the cello is beautifully captured while the piano sound is quite acceptable if ever so slightly muted compared to the cello. That's really a quible though. The sound (in stereo) is wonderful. I wa somewhat worried that the high recording level would mean that the dynamics would be reduced but I did not find that to be the case. Dynamics sound nice and realistic to me.

Highly recommended but with the significant caveat about missing music in the first mvmt of Op.38. That lowers my performance rating from 5 stars to 4.5.

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Review by JJ June 8, 2007 (8 of 12 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Dans une prise de son en pur DSD, extrêmement fouillée, précise et exemplaire, rendant aux instruments en présence leur vérité de timbre, ce Super Audio CD nous offre un programme Brahms, avec la Sonate pour piano et violoncelle en mi mineur Op. 38 qui fut achevée durant l'année 1865 et qui remporta alors un grand succès. Sans mouvement lent, elle est plutôt inspirée par la nature et sa fraicheur de ton est un de ses atouts. La Sonate pour piano et violoncelle Op. 78 qui suit, est en fait un arrangement attribué au compositeur lui même, de sa Sonate pour violon en sol majeur Op. 78. Le programme de cet enregistrement s'achève avec la transcription pour piano et violoncelle de la fameuse Sonate pour clarinette Op. 120 N°1 datant de 1894, signée par Pieter Wispelwey. Ce dernier s'interroge en préambule sur le sens de cette part de la musique de chambre de Brahms en disant : "Est-on en présence d'un Brahms du début ? Oui et non. Je pourrai tout aussi bien parler d'un roman, d'une lettre et d'une épigramme, de Goethe, de Thomas Mann et de Schopenhauer, d'une symphonie, d'un quatuor à cordes et d'un lied, ou bien encore d'un hêtre, d'un laurier-rose et d'un buisson de ronces". Accompagné au piano par Dejan Lazić, Wispelwey déploie une palette de nuances d'une extrême finesse et nous entraîne au cur d'un univers où l'intime se pare de confidences. Un beau voyage musical.

Jean-Jacques Millo

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Review by JW June 10, 2007 (6 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Translation from Jean-Jacques Millo's review: (merci JJ - je le mets sur mon 'wishlist')

Captured in pure DSD, detailed, accurate, instruments rendered with their correct timbre, this SA-CD offers us Brahms' Sonata for Cello and Piano in minor Op. 38. This Sonata was completed in 1865 and at the time a great success. Without any slow movements with program was inspired by nature and one of its great stenghts is the freshness of its approach. Next up, the sonata for piano and cello Op. 78 which is in fact an arrangement attributed to the composer himself, namely his Sonata for violin in G major Op. 78. The disc ends with the recording of a transcription for piano and cello of the famous Sonata for Clarinet, Op. 120 No. 1 dated 1894, signed by Pieter Wispelwey.

In an interview with Pieter Wispelwey he said about this particular piece: "Are we in the presence of a Brahms from the beginning? Yes and No. I might as well refer to a novel, a letter and an epigram from Goethe, from Thomas Mann and Schopenhauer, a symphony, a string quarter and a song, or beter yet a beech, or oleander or a bramble bush".

Accompanied by Dejan Lazic, Wispelwey's playing is full of nuances and extreme finesse and he treats us to a universe that is both intimate and confident. A wonderful musical journey.

Jean-Jacques Millo
Translated by JW

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Works: 3  

Johannes Brahms - Cello Sonata No. 1 in E minor, Op. 38
Johannes Brahms - Clarinet Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op. 120 No. 1
Johannes Brahms - Violin Sonata No. 1 in G major, Op. 78