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Brahms Two Cello Sonatas. Zwei Gesänge, Op 91a a Abigail Fischer mez Norman Fischer vc Jeanne Kierman pf Centaur F CRC3648 (67’ • DDD)
Celebrating the approach of their 50th anniversary the Fischer Duo –
Norman Fischer and his wife Jeanne Kierman – unfold the autumnal majesty of Brahms’s Second Cello Sonata with long, thrilling arcs of dramatic insight laid over a gracefully plastic structure, and implemented with rich Brahmsian sound and commanding technical wisdom. From the opening flourish, Fischer and Kierman play the F major Second Sonata with soaring, splendid virtuosity as if it were not merely a great cello sonata but a reflection of the unique relationship between Brahms and Richard Hausmann, for whom he wrote it – in his 53rd year. As the duo build momentum towards the return of the main theme in the first movement and Kierman begins to assert herself, you get a sense of how the musical balance between the two instruments must have been at the premiere, with the composer himself at the keyboard.
In the E minor First Sonata, the duo’s empathy with Brahms leads them to begin with an unusually long and slow opening movement, as if they were paying homage to Josef Gänsbacher, the amateur cellist to whom it was dedicated; throughout, they reveal as many beautiful things as Brahms in E minor cares to, including an unusually courtly minuet, and surging waves of song challenging the longueurs of the obstinately fugal last movement.
The CD offers an exceptional bonus in the form of Brahms’s Op 91 songs, featuring Abigail Fischer illuminating the deep emotions with her beautifully rich mezzo and Fischer père playing the viola part as if it were meant for the cello. Laurence Vittes talks to … Johanna Lundy The Tucson-based horn player talks about her ambitious and varied new solo album What inspired this programme?
I wanted to record an entire album of solo, unaccompanied music for horn, and to feature several of the ‘classics’ of this repertoire, plus contribute new works. Most of all, I wanted to present these excellent but lesser-known works so that audiences could get to know them. Canyon Songs, featuring the addition of a string trio, snuck into the project and emerged as a perfect description of the theme, and therefore the album’s title.
Does playing solo Bach on the horn present particular problems? Yes, de initely! The biggest challenge is the question of where to breathe, since the music continues without points for repose. I chose to solve this with a romantic approach. The second challenge is range. Many horn players perform the Cello Suites, which reside in the lowest register of the instrument. By performing a work for lute, the range is very high, which adds endurance challenges.
Do you have a favourite period or musical style? I enjoy a variety of styles! In my recitals I try to include a complementary mix. The bulk of my performing life takes place in the orchestra, where my favourite composers are late Romantics like Strauss and Mahler. I also have an interest in contemporary music, where there is so much to explore.
What are your next plans? To do more with horn and strings. The sounds are lush and warm and logistically the group is very portable (no piano needed!). My colleagues and I formed a group called the Borderlands Ensemble, dedicated to reaching audiences in small, unique venues. We are recording a disc featuring female composers.
F Couperin . Rameau ‘Rediscovering Couperin & Rameau’ F Couperin L’art de toucher le clavecin Rameau Pièces de clavecin: Suites – in D; in A Lucas Wong pf Centaur F CRC3633 (73’ • DDD)
Put simply, Lucas Wong’s piano interpretations of Couperin and Rameau yield nothing to Marcelle Meyer, Alexandre Tharaud or Angela Hewitt for sensitivity and refinement. It doesn’t hurt that Wong has a gorgeously responsive Fazioli
Model F308 concert grand at his beck and call, and the instrument showcases his gifts for colour, nuance and tasteful dynamic contrasts. Cogent examples include Wong’s sexily shaped trills in Couperin’s Fourth Prélude, the point and precision of his détaché articulation in Rameau’s ‘Le Lardon’ from the D minor Suite and the way Rameau’s repeated-note passages in the A minor Suite’s Gavotte glide elegantly upwards.
Yet, for all of his pianistic allure, Wong’s interpretations are essentially rooted in his past experiences of this repertoire via the harpsichord. His discreet use of agogics and his mastery of the kind of overlapping finger legato that gramophone.co.uk
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