Johannes Moser / Alasdair Beatson

Felix & Fanny Mendelssohn: Works for Cello and Piano

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This release by cellist Johannes Moser and pianist Alasdair Beatson doesn't really deliver what it promises in the graphics: an examination of the musical relationship between Felix Mendelssohn and his sister Fanny. Fanny Mendelssohn's music occupies just 12 minutes of the program, forming a calm, inward entr'acte between the two Felix Mendelssohn cello sonatas. It may be that the two works here are Fanny's only ones for cello and piano, but her Piano Trio, Op. 11, would have served the stated purposes better. However, that's where the list of issues ends with this beautifully engineered album. The performances by Moser and Beatson, superbly matched, are not just fine, but revelatory. There's been a trend away from idealized 19th century delicacy in the music of Felix Mendelssohn toward a more muscular approach, but the Beethovenian sound has rarely been carried off as well as it is here. The contrasts in Felix's sonata movements become stark and seemingly personal (sample the extremely stormy opening movement of the Cello Sonata No. 2 in D major, Op. 58). The players use semi-historical instruments; Moser's cello is a 1694 Andrea Guarneri, and Beatson's piano an 1837 Érard, perfectly appropriate temporally and straining to catch the expressive range, just as it would have when this music was first played. Highly recommended, even if you have to go elsewhere for a Felix-Fanny balance.

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