Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Johannes BRAHMS, Frédéric CHOPIN, César FRANCK
Cello Sonatas
Jaccqueline du Pré ('cello) Daniel Barenboim (piano)
EMI double fforte CZS 5 74203 2 (2CDs) [111.39]

Collectors, du Pré fans and cello-fanciers who do not have these famous recordings in their collections should not hesitate to acquire this low-priced 2 CD set without delay. The new digital remastering has improved the original analogue sound considerably, and there is marginally greater warmth over previous CD incarnations.

In many ways the hero in these performances in Daniel Barenboim who in 1968 (the two Brahms Sonatas) and in 1972 (Chopin and Franck) was at the height of his pianistic powers - before conducting and an increasingly conservative approach to music-making began to lower the temperature of his readings. His passionate playing perfectly matches du Pré's own 'devil may care' style and one can read his own personal feelings towards his partner in almost every note.

The only slight disappointment in these performances remains Brahms first 'Cello Sonata Op.38 where a slightly off-form du Pré is not helped by the rather sharp 'cello sound provided by the EMI engineer and the tendency for the piano to overwhelm. That fine EMI technician Robert 'Bob' Gooch was given a rare outing in the second Sonata and suddenly everything comes to life with magnificent piano/'cello balance encouraging the players to give an almost overwhelming account. Du Pré exhibits her wonderful control of colour to very special effect.

The tragic onset of multiple sclerosis had kept du Pré from her instrument throughout much of 1971, but in December she had a short but miraculous remission and Barenboim quickly arranged for what were to prove her final recording sessions. Chopin's Sonata (often considered a Cinderella amongst his works) received one of its finest performances ever - for many the true worth of the work only came to light in du Pré's hands. The well-known arrangement of Franck's violin sonata for 'cello by Delsart contains much virtuoso writing yet one would hardly know of du Pré's illness on the evidence of this recording. Where there are errors (including a rather too obviously poor leap up the fingerboard in the last movement of the Chopin) one is inclined to believe that they are the fault of poor production and editing rather than the performer's. Indeed the standard of production in the late sixties and early seventies at EMI has only been shown to be poor since the introduction of CD where, nowadays, everything has to be done with so much more care. LP 'needle noise' and rumble tended to cover 'a multitude of sins' in those pre-digital days. Now, on CD reissues, there is no hiding place.

But the experience of hearing du Pré and Barenboim at their height remains, of course, one of the great joys for the collector. Enjoy!

Simon Foster



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