Wednesday 8th October 2014


Bach – Suite no. 3 for solo cello in C major, BWV 1009

Mendelssohn – Sonata no. 2 for cello & piano in D major

Chopin – Preludes for piano, Nos. 3, 4, 6, 8, 15 & 16

Shostakovich – Sonata for cello & piano in D minor op.40


An Enthusiastic Full House for the Opening Ilkley Concert Club Season

The concert was programmed to open with Bach’s Fifth Suite for Unaccompanied Cello, but instead we were given the shorter and more popular third suite. This was doubly a pity; the opportunities to hear the fifth suite live are rarer, and its graver introspective mood would have provided a much stronger contrast with the joyous Mendelssohn that followed.

Natalie Clein’s performance of the third suite’s opening Prelude had lovely flow, and the following Allemande was beautifully phrased with some delicate staccato playing in the Courante. After the richly textured Sarabande the concluding Bourrées and Gigue were full of dance-like bounce.

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Both artists had solo spots and Sergio Tiempo played a group of Chopin Preludes. This young pianist has a formidable technique, he can clearly cope with anything he’s presented with and the more virtuosic preludes were brilliantly done. His is an exciting talent but one that needs taming. His soft playing is lovely but the tone can harden in louder passages and his impetuous way is not always an advantage, especially when he is accompanying, as in the first of the two duo sonatas they performed.

The Mendelssohn 2nd Cello Sonata piano part was composed for a much lighter-toned instrument than the modern concert grand that Shostakovich wrote for nearly a century later. Mendelssohn’s deft piano figuration can easily overwhelm a cello’s naturally reticent tone as was the case at times in the outer movements in this performance. Balance in the scherzo was much better and in the slow movement the interaction of the rich piano chords and an eloquent cello line was very striking.

The Shostakovich sonata went well. Even with the piano lid now fully open most balance problems were solved. The composer’s almost nervy changes of mood were well caught. Natalie Clein responded whole-heartedly to the music’s varying emotions, the yearning almost romantic sections in the first movement, the savagery and grotesquery of the scherzo, the bleakness of what followed and the black humour of the finale.


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Recommended Recordings



An excellent modern recording of the 6 Cello Suites, which takes into account the latest ideas on historical accuracy, is provided by Pieter Wispelwey on Evil Penguin EPRC012 (2 discs at full price, and yes, this is a genuine record label!). The package includes an interesting DVD with an analysis of the Suites. An interesting alternative, at budget price (Warner 2564624199), has Mstislav Rostropovich giving his very personal interpretation of the Suites.

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A very fine, full price, DGG CD (471 565-2) contains the 2 Cello Sonatas and other pieces for cello and piano. Mischa Maisky (cello) is accompanied by tonight’s pianist Sergio Tiempo. Maria Kliegel (cello) and Krislin Merscher (piano) are a good alternative, with a similar programme, on Naxos 8.550655 (budget price).


My favourite recording of the Préludes is by a young Martha Argerich, with her white-hot interpretation on DGG 463 663-2 (mid price). Murray Perahia gives his thoughtful readings on Sony 88843062432 (6 discs for the price of 1 full price). This splendid set contains Chopin’s Concertos, Sonatas, Mazurkas, Études, Préludes and Impromptus.


Alexander Chausian (cello) and Yevgeny Sudbin (piano) give a superb performance on a beautifully recorded BIS SACD – BIS-SACD-1858 (full price). The disc will play on normal CD players, and also contains Cello Sonatas by Borodin and Rachmaninov. A super-budget 2 disc set from Virgin 482 067-2 is an excellent alternative. Truls Mork (cello), Jean-Yves Thibaudet (piano), and Lars Vogt (piano) also play Sonatas and other pieces for cello and piano by Miaskovsky, Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, and Stravinsky.

Raymond Waud.

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