By the first half of the nineteenth century it was commonplace for German masters, both great and obscure, to visit their genius upon the cello, in a way that fifty years prior had been rare. Mendelssohn composed his first cello sonata for his brother Paul, an excellent amateur; Schumann’s Fantasiestucke were composed over just two days and originally published for clarinet and piano, with the indication they could be performed on the cello, as well, and this is the version most often heard today. Brahms studied the cello briefly as a child; his expertise in writing for the instrument was enhanced by the friendship of some of Europe’s best cellists and can be heard in two sonatas, the “Double” concerto, and all of his chamber music. The op. 91 songs were originally composed for alto, piano, and viola, to be played by Brahms’s friend Joseph Joachim, but immediately upon publication cellists recognized the potential for their own instrument in these gorgeous songs and arrangements appeared shortly. The Sonata in E minor not only pays tribute to an instrument Brahms loved but to a composer he revered, J.S. Bach, whose Art of Fugue is used as the springboard for the sonata’s last movement.
Guy Fishman and Ian Watson perform these works on period instruments and are joined by acclaimed alto Margaret Lias in this retrospective of movingly beautiful romantic music.
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