top of page

Truly Sumptuous

The MHS Review 381 Vol. 11, NO. 3 • 1987

click on the cover to return to the table of contents

Frank Cooper


not yet released.png

Most of us think of Chopin and Rachmaninoff mainly in terms of the piano, not the cello. Poor cello: where popularity is concerned, statistics rank it third behind the more brilliant piano and violin. (This is rather like the way we popularly think about opera, prefer­ring sopranos and tenors over mez­zos and basses.) We may be overlooking the obvious: for these most unusual cello sonatas a vir­tuoso pianist is required-as partner, not mere accompanist. Their com­posers tailored these piano parts for themselves, and they were two of the greatest pianists in history.

Chopin wrote his sonata late in life (it was the last thing he publish­ed), so it sings, bel canto, with all the fervor of the romantic master's full maturity. Each instrument's part is written with great elegance and fluidity. Rachmaninoff composed his sonata during the same creative spell as his Second Piano Concerto, that treasure trove of late-romantic melody. The slow and final movements contain themes you could die for, and the piano part is truly sumptuous.

Now, I suspect that part of the fault for our probable previous ig­norance of these two works lies with a combination of certain cellists (who didn't have virtuoso pianists with whom to play, or who didn't want to share the spotlight with virtuoso pianists even when they might) and wary record com­panies (which feared poor sales from unfamiliar cello music, no mat­ter who wrote it). Funny, isn't it, when glorious works such as these are withheld from those of us who'd love them most?

Where this particular recording is concerned, let me assure you that Mr. Brey and Ms. Weintraub have the requisite tone, style, and technique with which to play these pieces, know them inside and out, and give appropriately impassioned perfor­mances of both. One could hardly ask for more in terms of ensemble or musicianship.

Since these artists are so good, honesty compels me to admit total unfamiliarity with their names before hearing the recording. Know­ing from experience that, all too often, competition winners turn out to be only competent, I expected dutiful, if perhaps not exciting, readings of two offbeat sonatas. Within moments of listening, I discovered that the players were far above the ordinary and at home with all the difficulties these large­scale scores contain. The more I listened, the more I heard--thanks, too, to clear, true sound with plen­ty of depth to it.

Review of the recording Debut of Cellist Carter Brey

bottom of page