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Customer Review

This is a fine specimen of what duo-playing can and should be. My pleasure in this record is in no small measure down to my enthusiasm for these particular works, among the most attractive and significant products of early romanticism. Chopin's cello sonata seems to me an even better work than his piano sonatas. None other than Tovey gives it high marks for construction, even forgetting for once to include his near-invariable reference to Beethoven as the benchmark in all such matters. Chopin had written for the cello in his early years, and the opus 3 introduction-and-polonaise is included here, but the sonata has a sheer self-assurance about that sounds as if he had been composing for it all his life. There is even a full-scale slow movement - not long but not a miniature either - and that was something that Beethoven had avoided, no doubt because the cello of all instruments was most liable to show up the feeble sustaining-power of the pianos of his time. I recently heard a recital on a piano made for Clara Schumann by her father's firm, and matters had obviously improved since Beethoven's time - I was surprised by the volume and sustained tone it was capable of - but even Brahms was still cautious about slow movements in his cello sonatas. In the first there is none, in the second he has the cello playing largely pizzicato. Chopin adopts the simplest and most natural solution, a lyric melody on the cello with the piano mainly reduced to accompaniment.
What I love about this record is the sheer full-bloodedness of the playing. The recorded balance is really very good, much better than on the notable disc of the Brahms sonatas that Rostropovich did with Serkin, and the sound of the two instruments has the quality that such playing deserves and demands. The trio of Chopin's scherzo is a humdinger of a cello tune, sung with heart, soul and passion by Rostropovich. Schumann's adagio section is likewise given the 'mit innigem Ausdruck' treatment, and when matters turn 'Rasch und feurig' the playing is simply thrilling. I'm not sure whether everyone is going to like Argerich's impetuosity here and there in the finale of the sonata. However that's who she is and that's what we ought to expect. Rostropovich follows her without a qualm, and I buy the whole effect unreservedly. I'm even an enthusiast for Chopin's early introduction/polonaise, a similar effort to the Andante Spianato and Grand Polonaise familiar from piano recitals. I looked for, and duly found, the predictable cliché 'a salon piece', but happily before I poked any derision at the expression I also noticed that it was Chopin who had used the phrase.
These days Rostropovich is into conducting although I think he still plays. Argerich has announced that she will do no more solo work and focus instead on the chamber repertory. I see nothing in this situation that stops me from hoping to hear more from this magnificent partnership.
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