Dutch Sonatas for Violoncello and Piano - Volume 7
Joseph HOLLMAN (1852-1927)
Pourquoi? [2:10]
Berceuse [2:55]
Souvenir de Berck [2:05]
Sérénade [2:53]
Andante religioso [3:16]
Extase [4:59]
Julius BENEDICT (1804-1885) – Alexander BATTA (1816-1902)
Robert le Diable; Duo for cello and piano (1840) [18:50]
Emile WESLY (1858-1926)
Rêverie d’automne (c. 1905) [3:58]
Andrée BONHOMME (1905-1982)
Sonatine (1942-43) [9:39]
Lamento (1942) [6:32]
In Memoriam (1947) [3:31]
Alexander BATTA (1816-1902)
Il Trovatore; Fantasie for cello (c.1857) [14:43]
Doris Hochscheid (cello)
Frans van Ruth (piano)
rec. 2015, Konzerthaus der Abtei Marienmünster

In no time at all, or so it seems, this series has reached volume seven. The series' title has, by now though, to be taken with a pinch of salt, as this disc contains a compact sonatine surrounded by an infantry division of shorter salon works, virtuoso showpieces and ardent charmers. There’s not a sign of a sonata.

In terms of cubic volume, most of the works were written by the cellist-composer Joseph Hollman, one of the titans of the instrument and one who, fortunately, lived long enough to record. His metier was the brief salon piece of which Pourquoi? which runs the gamut of aggression to pliant melancholy, is a good example. If the Berceuse is somewhat generic, the adroit swaying rhythm of Souvenir de Berck, well conveyed by Doris Hochscheid and Frans van Ruth, is more personalised. Fortunately the Hollman pieces have been well selected, so that the nimble, pizzicato-flecked Sérénade is juxtaposed with the suitably prayerful Andante religioso, where Hochscheid draws back her tone adeptly. His final piece is the Extase. None is the cellistic equivalent of, say, Kreisler’s violin pieces – Hollman, for one thing, wasn’t much interested in baroque pastiche from the sound of it and preferred to pursue the avenue of established late-nineteenth-century character pieces.

Dedicated to Hollman, Emile Wesly’s Rêverie d’automne is a salon charmer. Not much is known of his career as a composer – he trained as an art critic – but it transpires that one of his 1905 songs was later used by Brecht and Dessau for their Song of Mother Courage.

Cellist Alexander Batta, like the younger Hollman, studied in Brussels. He performed with Liszt in Paris, the city where Batta lived most of his adult life. Here he enjoyed numerous opportunities to ingratiate himself in the highest echelons of Parisian salon life, and to make the acquaintance of the great opera composers who worked, or who visited the city. Thus those most popular of mid-century genres, the operatic fantasia and paraphrase, formed a large part of his oeuvre. Batta was by no means the only composer – major and minor – to saddle up with another to maximise the technical potential offered by two leading instrumentalist-composers. In his case he chose the German pianist Julius Benedict, then also living in Paris, for his duo on themes from Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable. It’s not overwhelmingly virtuosic, though it bears the imprint of two highly accomplished executants, but Benedict certainly gave himself some attractive bouncy patterns and there’s predictably a fair distribution between the two instruments. The legato passages show that Batta must have had possessed an enviable ‘long bow’. Batta alone wrote the fantasia on Il Trovatore and its quarter-hour length allows sub-division of material into faster and slower passages. The piano role is quite vocalised – a touch more so than the Meyerbeer, perhaps - though more supportive than in the companion work.

Andrée Bonhomme (1905-1982) took lessons from Milhaud, though principally on instrumentation and not so much on composition. She wrote a number of valued song settings but the focus here is on her instrumental works of the 1940s. The Sonatine is in two movements and quite traditional, with a slow expressive opening followed by a songful fast second movement fully living up to the Vif et joyeux instruction. She had a gift for solemn and expressive slow movements, as shown by the Lamento, with its gloomy, dark tread which gets more urgent in the central panel, and the brief In Memoriam. She’s a composer worth getting to know.

Good booklet notes have been a feature of the series. The performers are fully on top of this repertoire and project it convincingly allied with a very serviceable recording.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: David Barker


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