Monday, December 23, 2019

Rachmaninoff's "Cello Sonata", and why it is interesting to me, at least



Natalia Gutman (cello) and Elisso Versaladze (piano) play the Sonata for Cello and Piano in G Minor, Op. 19 (1901) by Sergei Rachmaninoff.  


The work is titled as such as the idea of “cello sonata” would diminish the role of the piano.  Here, the 35-minute work is so much a piano virtuoso sonata that it overshadows the cello, which sounds like an obligatto.

The work has four movements, and the first movement offers a slow introduction and even exposition repeat (with the second theme in dominant major instead of relative).

The scherzo (C minor) is wicked, but the slow movement (E-flat) is opulent post-romanticism on steroids.

The Finale is entirely in the Picardy G Major.  It has some piano passage work that foreshadows the Second Piano Concerto.  Before the end, there is a fake slow-down as if it would end quietly, and then there is a prestissimo rush to the final fortissimo.

My “music friend” at William and Mary that lost fall of 1961 played the cello was well as piano and invited me to write him a cello sonata.  I have a sketch of a slow first movement in B-flat in handwritten notes, I still have it.  The finale was supposed to be a kind of tarantella. 

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