Variations concertantes, Op.17
Lied ohne Worte, Op.19a/1 [arr. Piatti]
Sonata No.1 in B flat for Cello and Piano, Op.45
Lied ohne Worte, Op.19a/3 (Jägerlied)
Sonata No.2 in D for Cello and Piano, Op.58
Lied ohne Worte, Op.109
Lied ohne Worte, Op.19a/6 (Venetianisches Gondellied) [arr. Piatti]
Antonio Meneses (cello) & Gérard Wyss (piano)
Recorded 9-11 June 2007 in Potton Hall, Suffolk
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: December 2007
CD No: AVIE RECORDS
Duration: 73 minutes
Mendelssohn’s music, including arrangements, fits snugly onto a single compact disc, yet only recently has it begun to receive anything like the attention it merits.
Consisting primarily of two sonatas and Variations concertantes, it takes its lead from Beethoven in the ‘duo’ approach, treating cello and piano on equal terms.
Mendelssohn’s first two pieces for the combination served also as gifts for his brother Paul, a good amateur cellist. Antonio Meneses and Gérard Wyss begin with the first of these, the Variations, and immediately strike an ideal balance that holds through Mendelssohn’s contrasting takes on the theme. Sparky and with witty dialogue between the two, it proves an ideal start.
The First Sonata (1839) was dedicated to Paul, and resembles Beethoven’s Opus 69 Sonata in its thoughtful opening. Meneses and Wyss are alive to the freely flowing music, with Mendelssohn’s fluent melodic writing brought to the fore, and Wyss’s use of the sustaining pedal suitably weighted.
The slow movement, which proves to be dance-like is warmly expressive in what could be viewed its ‘trio’, where Meneses gives a broad account of the theme, while the extended piano passages assigned are resonant both in performance and recording. (For some reason, reverberation has been added to the excellent Potton Hall acoustic!)
The Second Sonata is by contrast a full-bodied and virtuous work, the musicians anxious to adhere to the ‘vivace’ marking throughout the first movement and press forward with great urgency and are nearly two minutes quicker than the majority of their counterparts.
Again they concentrate on the freely moving melodies and have a firm grip on the formal design, but this sonata is altogether more passionate and muscular. Despite the challenging tempos set in the faster music Wyss is alert to the virtuosity required in some of the long scalic runs demanded of the right hand in particular. The pair become less authoritative, furtive even, for the Allegretto scherzando, and while the slow movement could be given more room for expression, Wyss ensures that even the steady spread chords are given convincing elevation of phrase.
The disc is generously filled out with some appealing trifles, including Alfredo Piatti’s arrangements of three Songs without Words, the ‘Jägerlied’ in particular a suitable encore with its dazzling virtuosity. Also included is the only Song without Words that Mendelssohn wrote for cello and piano, again a touch faster in this performance but warmly lyrical. Completing the set is the short Assai tranquillo, its ending temptingly unresolved.
This release of Mendelssohn serves as an excellent companion piece to Meneses and Wyss’s warmly received disc of Schubert and Schumann (also for Avie), and is similarly played with great enthusiasm and affection. Highly recommended.