Sonata in C for Cello and Piano, Op.119
Sonata in D minor for Cello and Piano, Op.40
Andreas Brantelid (cello) & Bengt Forsberg (piano)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 11 January, 2010
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
Prokofiev didn’t write for the cello with any great fluency until late in his life, yet his relationship with the instrument was ultimately a productive one. Perhaps inevitably this was manifested through Mstislav Rostropovich, who famously gave the premiere of the Cello Sonata in 1949 with Sviatoslav Richter.
In this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert Andreas Brantelid and Bengt Forsberg presented a compelling case for a lighter approach to the work, focussing on Prokofiev’s lyrical themes and imbuing them with a balletic charm. This was particularly evident in the poise of the finale, Brantelid’s melody nicely floated, and the cello’s airy tone contrasted well with the blustery passages that followed. Here and in the scherzo the two performers were careful observers of the composer’s tempo markings, the scherzo in particular paced at a scrupulous Moderato throughout. This did deny us some of the composer’s more humorous exchanges, but with Brantelid’s broad strokes in the central section and a lighter touch for the theme on its return there was a smile on the face of the music by the end. The opening cello solo had enjoyed relaxed warmth, the first movement unfolding with spacious tempo and texture, and Forsberg was commendable in his restraint through the virtuosic writing of the finale, even the most percussive passages standing aside for the cello when required.
Shostakovich’s sole cello sonata evolved in difficult circumstances, dominated by marital problems but finding in the struggle a sense of steely resolve. There was a greater intensity, both visually and aurally, to this performance, with Brantelid and Forsberg especially effective in the slower passages, heightening the tension with a telling rallentando in the first movement. This led to the Largo coda, with a very deliberate and effective prodding of the left-hand part from Forsberg, before suddenly exploding into the stern scherzo. There was a real sense of contemplation for the slow movement, Brantelid’s plaintive line exploring the depths of desolation towards its end, before the finale imposed a more good humoured dialogue, particularly when Forsberg’s assertive pianism took the foreground.
These were very fine and interesting performances, bringing a freshness of interpretation to two often-heard cello sonatas.