Jamie Walton & Daniel Grimwood – Sonatas for Cello & Piano by Britten, Prokofiev & Shostakovich [Signum Classics]

0 of 5 stars

Sonata in D minor for Cello and Piano, Op.40
Sonata in C for Cello and Piano, Op.65
Sonata in C for Cello and Piano, Op.119

Jamie Walton (cello) & Daniel Grimwood (piano)

Recorded 16-18 February 2011 at Wyastone Leys Concert Hall, Monmouthshire

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: December 2011
Duration: 67 minutes



The established partnership of Jamie Walton and Daniel Grimwood turn their attention to three cello sonatas whose composers link inexorably to Mstislav Rostropovich. All three wrote for cello – with piano, and with orchestra – as a direct result of their involvement and friendship with the great cellist. Of the works here only the Shostakovich (1934) does not bear his dedication, largely because the cellist would have been seven at the time!

That is the first work on this attractive release, finding Walton and Grimwood (the latter sometimes backwards in balance) in largely thoughtful mood, placing particular expressive emphasis on the second theme of the first movement. Such is the rubato applied to this by Walton in particular that the music almost stops, the higher note placed very deliberately in a perfectly valid and affecting approach. Elsewhere the tone is more aggressive, with a gruff scherzo-like second movement finding a shrill timbre when Grimwood is occupying the upper register. In the finale the straitlaced march is paced just right, with a hint of bitterness when the dynamics get louder.

The Prokofiev is much less introspective by nature, and has become one of the composer’s best-loved chamber works due to its immediacy and profligacy of good tunes, not to mention the odd humorous aside or two. If Walton does not perhaps explore the chances to make merry this is still a very positive performance, the affinity between cello and piano clear in the fast passages, while Grimwood lets Walton express himself more fully in the slower, more balletic writing. The second movement is quite direct, and as it progresses to an enjoyable, throwaway end, Grimwood’s control of the upper register is excellent. The piercing upper register does get a little uncomfortable in the finale, though is not a problem when the red-blooded last page comes in to view.

The Britten is the most successful performance, getting the balance between the slightly shy, withdrawn themes and the sudden outbursts spot-on in the first movement, and then allowing time for a few furtive asides and sidelong glances in the second. Walton and Grimwood are emphatic where the music calls for it, but keep an element of mystery as Britten moves relatively quickly between moods and forms. Walton’s pizzicato and armoury of tricks are precisely as required by the composer, securing striking sound-effects that are well caught by the recording. The duo scrupulously follows the composer’s markings.

This is another successful disc for a partnership that clearly enjoys playing and recording together. Their forthright style in each of these three pieces pays dividends, and when all three are listened to consecutively they serve as an appropriate reminder of Rostropovich’s incalculable influence on the cello repertoire of the 20th-century.

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