Passion and gloom
Rachmaninov and Shostakovich
cello sonatas -
an appraisal by
'... Gwyneth George ... riding the technical difficulties with enviable ease ...'
At the end of the 19th century it seemed as if Rachmaninov had written
only one work, a short piece produced after graduation. If Raff was allowed
just a Cavatina and Anton Rubinstein merely his Melody in F, Rachmaninov
must make do with his Prelude in C sharp minor. It was demanded wherever
he played. As late as May 1922 the Musical Times had to sit out the
inevitable encore: 'Rachmaninov knew what was coming, if his depressed air
was any guide. He had hardly sunk on to the piano-stool when cries of "C
sharp minor!" were fired at him, and he got to work with it at once,
not even making a fresh start when the mob broke in on the opening notes
with applause'. Since then there has been a Piano Concerto in C minor, theme
music for any situation requiring a sufficiently heady mixture of passion
and gloom. I now recommend with complete confidence the Cello Sonata in
G minor, written soon after the concerto. It has many of the same qualities.
Towering pianist that he was, Rachmaninov makes no attempt to limit the
number of keyboard notes, and produces a virtuoso part in the midst of which
the cello must somehow make its eloquent plea and regret it is not a full
orchestra. The main section of the first movement begins with unstoppable
lyrical impulse [listen -- track 1, 1:02-2:02].
The Scherzo is grimly sardonic, but it is the third movement Andante that
displays Rachmaninov's superb lyricism in full flower [listen
-- track 3, 1:49-3:01].
Copyright © 10 April 2002
Robert Anderson, London, UK
& Vision home Recent reviews
Joly Braga Santos >>