Mendelssohn: Works for Cello and Piano - Poltéra, Brautigam

Mendelssohn: Works for Cello and Piano - Poltéra, Brautigam

BIS  BIS-2187

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Chamber

Mendelssohn: Variations concertantes in D major, Op. 17, Sonata No. 1 in B flat major, Op. 45. Romance sans paroles in D major, Op. 109, Assai tranquillo (Albumblatt) in B minor (1835), Sonata No. 2 in D major, Op. 58

Christian Poltéra (Stradivarius on gut strings)
Ronald Brautigam (1830 Pleyel)

It is well known that Felix Mendelssohn’s sister Fanny was a highly talented musician, but fewer are familiar with the fact that there were two other musical siblings in the Mendelssohn family: Rebecka, a gifted singer, and Paul, a very competent amateur cellist. It is to Paul, a banker by profession, that we owe the existence of much of Felix’s music for the instrument, which in spite of Beethoven’s endeavours hadn’t yet become firmly established as a duo partner of the piano.

Fitting comfortably on a single disc, Mendelssohn’s works for cello and piano are here presented by Christian Poltéra and Ronald Brautigam, who open with the Variations concertantes in D major, composed in 1829. Brautigam has recently released the composer’s Lieder ohne Worte, performing them on a copy of a piano by Pleyel from 1830, and plays the same instrument on the present disc. Meanwhile, Poltéra has chosen to equip his 1711 Stradivarius cello with gut strings, and together the two musicians and their instruments create a sound which is both flexible, transparent and vigorous – ideal for Mendelssohn’s scores. The two substantial sonatas, composed in 1838 and 1843, are separated on the disc by a brief ‘Albumblatt’ and a Romance sans paroles in D major, the only ‘song without words’ that Mendelssohn wrote for two instruments rather than piano solo.


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Reviews (1)

Review by Adrian Quanjer - September 12, 2017

50 years ago Mendelssohn’s chamber music were a rarity, and his symphonic output limited to the ‘Italian’. Even now his cello sonatas are relatively hard to find. In hi-resolution, however, there currently is a choice of three, all more or less recent recordings, of which two on period instruments, like this one. Having all three, I can say with confidence that, at least as far as Mendelssohn’s two sonatas are concerned, this is the one to go for. The Variations Concertantes are a different matter.

Both sonatas are full to the brim with lovely melodies and inventive passage work. They breathe elegance and erudition, so typical for Mendelssohn’s chamber works, steering nonetheless well clear of becoming salon music.

Both Poltéra and Brautigam don’t need any further introduction and BIS may consider themselves lucky having contracted them for several outstanding recordings on SACD. For me there are few who can match Poltéra’s musical insight, technical perfection and superb intonation. The use of period instruments add a distinctive chamber like character d’époque, which I’m sure will not fail to please many. Even those who prefer modern instruments should listen to this well balanced performance, where both instruments are equals. This all boils down to a glowing account and moments of sheer delight.

My only problem with this release pertains to the fact that BIS has opted for indexing the Variations in such a way that each variation is cut off abruptly. The sound is not dying out, suggesting that in reality the players continued with the next without interruption, like Hidemi Suzuki (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi) does. An artificial cut spoiling the flow of the music. As for the third option: Friedrich Kleinhaple’s recital does not include the Variations. His extras are a collection of deliciously arranged Lieder ohne Worte, but his playing is less secure than that of Poltéra.

Normandy, France.

Copyright © 2017 Adrian Quanjer and


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