Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor, Op.19
Sonata for Cello and Piano in A minor, Op.36
Jamie Walton (cello) & Daniel Grimwood (piano)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 5 March, 2007
Venue: St John's, Smith Square, London
Neither Grieg nor Rachmaninov could claim the cello as anything near their first discipline – both were pianists of course – but it seems to have drawn out their sense of drama, not to mention a heady Romanticism, in their solitary sonatas. In Grieg’s case this took the form of a dedication to his brother John, a cellist with whom he was hoping for reconciliation, while Rachmaninov’s dedicatee, Anatoly Brandukov, was himself the subject of much of Tchaikovsky’s cello output.
Both works have much to offer in the way of melody and lyricism, qualities explored by Jamie Walton and Daniel Grimwood in a passionately expressive recital. Both works place more demand on the pianist than is conventional for the form, and Grimwood proved more than equal to the virtuosic writing that came his way.
Walton was playing his 1712 Guarneri, an instrument he hopes to secure full-time given appropriate funding, and his relatively compact style belied a strongly communicative pair of performances.
The Rachmaninov began in something of a reverie with its thoughtful Lento introduction, but soon turned up the heat as both performers threw themselves into the Allegro, pausing briefly to make space for the languid second theme.
Problems of balance abound in this sonata but were handled exceptionally well by Grimwood, who only occasionally assumed total dominance over the cello, even in a spiky scherzo. Here the busy writing was well defined, and Walton’s mellow interpretation of the trio felt just right.
A vibrant fourth movement cut through a dreamy, tender finish to the slow movement, and once again both musicians were technically superb in their headlong rush to the finish, one of many aggressive tempo choices helping the music to zip along but without losing its sentiment.
Grieg’s Cello Sonata followed in barely the blink of an eye, like the Rachmaninov responding well to the ambience of the acoustic. Walton and Grimwood were urgent from the outset, though again Grimwood had heavy demands placed on his accompanying figures well before a beautifully poised second theme from Walton.
Only in the slow movement climax was the volume too much, but the playful finale took Grieg’s relatively straightforward arpeggio theme and worked wonders with it.
At just an hour in length this was an ideal early-evening recital, confirming both cellist and pianist as formidable talents in the making with performances of real depth and power.