Julian Steckel / Paul Rivinius

Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev

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Following up on their 2011 album of French Romantic cello sonatas on Avi, cellist Julian Steckel and pianist Paul Rivinius approach the Russian repertoire in this 2013 album of works by Sergey Rachmaninov and Sergey Prokofiev on Oehms Classics. While some listeners will expect this program to be an overly rich and heavy experience, it is surprisingly varied and exploits the cello's full range, providing enough variety in textures and tone colors to keep the listener interested. To be sure, the cello occupies the baritone register in Rachmaninov's brooding post-romantic Sonata in G minor, Op. 19, and it is left to the piano to reach into the upper register with ornamental filigree over the cello's long-breathed lines. But Prokofiev's Sonata in C major, Op. 119, offers a different set of parameters, and not only is the cello's range stretched quite far, but a few extended techniques present the cellist with challenges that are absent in Rachmaninov's sonata. The remaining four tracks are short pieces by Rachmaninov that serve as attractive encores, adding play time and musical value to the package, and they give Steckel and Rivinius a chance to work in strictly lyrical fare. The sound of the recording is good, with a true placement of the instruments, though it is a little airless and sounds like a conventional recital hall recording.

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