Ignaz Moscheles (1794-1870)
Grand sonate concertante, op. 34 (1841)
Ferdinand Ries (1784-1838)
Grand sonate in G minor, op. 125 (1823)
Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837)
Grand sonate in A major, op. 104 (1824)
Marco Testori, cello
Costantino Mastroprimiano, piano
(2016) – TT 69:50
In a nutshell:
• First recording of Moscheles’s Cello Sonata in B-flat major op. 34, remarkable for its dark slow movement of Beethovenian pathos and a smashing finale of perpetual motion that anticipates Mendelssohn’s trademark elfin scherzo; it has the finesse and power of an etude.
• Ries’s Cello Sonata in G minor op. 125 is autumnal and indebted to Beethoven, but situated further along the bridge towards Romanticism.
• Hummel’s warm and stylish Cello Sonata in A major op. 104 is well represented in the discography and receives a worthy performance.
• Marco Testori (cello) and Constantino Mastroprimiano (piano) offer convincing interpretations—considerably rushed in the Ries, however—but the 1838 Érard piano will be grating for some listeners.
• Recording quality is rough with a confined and muffled sound. Details are muddied; the cello suffers from this more than the piano.
These cello sonatas date from 1814-1824 and reflect a transitional period from late classicism to early Romanticism. Each composer acknowledges Beethoven to some extent, while displaying their own personal stamp. The real sleeper hit is the never-before-recorded Grande Sonate Concertante (1814) by Moscheles. All three movements are inspired and riveting. An overt Hummel influence permeates the “Allegro moderato,” while Beethoven comes to mind in the dark and chromatic “Andante doloroso.” Mendelssohn was just four years old at the time, but there are occasions when he sounds like the author of the final “Allegro molto.” It is an “elfin” scherzo in which the piano dominates using rapid patter and scales in the manner of a tarantella. In this busy keyboard texture, the cello comments and interjects where it can, frequently operating as a pedal point. Moscheles’s brand of virtuosity is against the grain of empty bravura display. He is an heir to Beethoven and does not indulge meaningless decoration and glitter for mere effect.
Ferdinand Ries (1784-1838) is best remembered as Beethoven’s earliest biographer, secretary, and for a time, one of his piano students. That Ries was a disciple of Beethoven is unmistakable in the Grande Sonate in G minor op. 125 (1823). The opening “Grave-Allegro” is deeply serious and darkened by the cello’s nether regions. In one sublime instance, the cello carries a wrenching emotional melody above soft ostinatos on the keyboard. Ries looks forward to Romanticism in the soothing “Larghetto con moto,” featuring a tender cello cantilena. Harder and louder playing occurs in the Hungarian-flavored “Rondo,” an animated dance with florid piano writing. Note the performers take a much faster tempo compared to Gaetano Nasillo / Alessandro Commelato (Brilliant Classics) and Guido Lorisch / Robert Hill (CPO).
If there’s a famous work among these neglected gems, it would be Hummel’s Grande Sonate in A major op. 104 (1824), recorded notably by Franz Bartolomey / Madoka Inui (Naxos) and Boris Pergamenschikow / Pavel Gililov (Orfeo). The “Allegro amabile e grazioso” creates an intimate dialogue of melting expressiveness and fresh harmonies, leading to a dignified development. In the melancholy “Un poco adagio e con espressione,” the piano often leads with important melodic material buffeted by long-breathed cello lines. A jaunty “Rondo” rife with Alberti bass figures and a lively keyboard part brings the work to a close.
Cellist Marco Testori has a rich tone, but is often overpowered by Constantino Mastroprimiano on an 1838 Érard. Unfortunately the Érard’s tone is thin and deadened. If you dislike period instruments, you’ll have a difficult time warming up to the sound, which is already muffled; the recording venue, Sala Note Romantiche, may be the culprit.