Not until the end of his short life did Chopin turn to composing for an instrument other than his beloved piano. With the help of his longtime friend, cellist Auguste-Joseph Franchomme, Chopin's G minor Sonata reflects his suffering and discontent with his failing health and relationships. Meanwhile, another virtuoso-composer, pianist Charles-Valentin Alkan, was also turning to the influential Franchomme for help with the composition of his Sonate de Concert in E minor for cello and piano. Like Chopin, it was to be one of the few works Alkan was to write for an instrument other than piano solo. Alkan's music, and the Cello Sonata in particular, is little known today. The liner notes of this Mirare album set out to highlight the complexity and innovation of the sonata, but really little substance that could elevate through the ranks of other Romantic cello sonatas. Still, it is nonetheless interesting to be exposed to new repertoire, and it does illustrate Franchomme's wide-reaching influence. Performing here are cellist Tatjana Vassiljeva and pianist Jean-Frédéric Neuburger. Despite the rich, dense Romantic writing by both Chopin and Alkan, Vassiljeva's sound is disappointingly thin and nasal and fails to consistently project above the thunderous piano. Musically, Vassiljeva's Chopin is rather laid-back, with tempo rubato too often letting the tempo relax and too infrequently driving the tempo forward resulting in a lazy-sounding first movement and a sing-song Scherzo. Listeners interested in hearing the Alkan sonata may still find this recording of interest, but there are more robust recordings of the Chopin sonata available.
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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
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