This recording of two great Romantic cello sonatas features the mercurial duo of cellist Alban Gerhardt and pianist Steven Osborne, both musicians of dazzling technical and interpretative abilities. Gerhardt is known for his passionate commitment to lesser-known nineteenth-century repertoire through his coruscating performances in Hyperion’s Romantic Cello Concerto series, and in this chamber disc he reaches an even higher level of thrilling intensity. There are relatively few nineteenth-century cello sonatas. Even fewer have managed steadfastly to maintain a place in the current concert repertoire. Alkan’s splendid Sonata is a little-known work, but an immediately attractive one: ambitious, original, and replete with good tunes. Chopin’s Op 65 Sonata is a dense, complex work which baffled his contemporaries: it is revealed in this performance as a sophisticated example of two-part counterpoint, in which neither player consistently holds the centre-stage, and in which the interchange of voices is ever unpredictable. Both works were written for the great French cellist Auguste-Joseph Franchomme who gave their premieres, with the composer at the piano in each case, in 1848 and 1857 respectively.
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'One of the most gifted cellists on the international scene … Gerhardt is superb here, and he is fortunate to have Steven Osborne as his accompanist … a pianist of the first rank' (International Record Review)
'[Alkan] This new version must surely drag it centre-stage. It is a masterpiece: meaty, melodic, and, as with most of Alkan's music, extremely demanding to play … Both performances from this outstanding partnership are out of the top drawer, fresh, spontaneous and beautifully recorded' (Gramophone)
'The Alkan emerges as a surprisingly strong work, made more so by the sterling advocacy of these fine players. Its four movements betray its composer's love of harmonic quirks and unexpected changes of direction alongside a freely lyrical spirit. Gerhardt draws a suitably Romantic sound from his rich-toned Matteus Gofriller cello, and he conveys a lithe ease of articulation and rhythm in the jaunty saltarella that concludes the work. In the more familiar Chopin, there is a palpable sense of a single, combined mind at work. Osborne's Chopin playing proves to be every bit as focused as his Messiaen or Tippett, and he and Gerhardt respond superlatively to the music's sensitivity and power' (Daily Telegraph)
Recording details: December 2007; Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom; Produced by Andrew Keener; Engineered by Simon Eadon; Release date: October 2008;