Playing together for the first time for Hyperion, Hough and Isserlis are stunningly matched in this large-scale passionate romantic programme. The sonatas stand at the centre of the meaty repertoire established by Brahms—whose two cello sonatas Steven Isserlis has recorded for us in an award-winning disc accompanied by Peter Evans (CDA66159)—and characterised by grand sweeping gestures, lush melody, and heartfelt emotions that sear from pathos to frenzy. The Franck is, of course, an alternative version the composer wished for his violin sonata, a transition that many feel to be the work's happiest incarnation.
A case of deja entendu here, since I reviewed these performances when they originally came out. I enjoyed them then and still do, for both artists offer wit, affection and agility. One can at times think the sheer force and passion of Martha Argerich's personality a bit too obvious, not least in the C major Sonata, where Maisky characteristically sounds smoother and more persuasive.
Nine cello sonatas by Vivaldi have survived. Six of them were published as a set in Paris in about 1740; that set, mistakenly known as the composer's Op. 14, contains the sonatas recorded in this release. The three remaining sonatas come from manuscript collections. All but one of the six works are cast in the slow-fast-slow-fast pattern of movements of the sonata da chiesa. The odd one out, RV46, in fact, retains the four movement sequence but inclines towards the sonata da camera in the use of dance titles. The music of these sonatas is almost consistently interesting, often reaching high points of expressive eloquence, as we find, for example, in the justifiably popular Sonata in E minor, RV40. Christophe Coin brings to life these details in the music with technical assurance and a spirit evidently responsive to its poetic content. Particularly affecting instances of this occur in the third movements of the A minor and the E minor Sonatas where Coin shapes each phrase, lovingly achieving at the same time a beautifully sustained cantabile.
On this recording, Steven Isserlis, together with his regular collaborator, fortepianist Robert Levin, presents a magisterial compendium of Beethoven's complete works for cello and piano, including Beethoven's arrangement of his Horn Sonata. The use of the fortepiano opens up a wealth of sonic possibilities for these works.