Doris Hochscheid / Frans van Ruth

Dutch Cello Sonatas

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This is one of a pair of discs on the MDG label's Audiomax imprint (one wonders what in the consistently fine sound was ever of less than maximum quality) covering Dutch music from between the world wars for cello and piano. It's an almost forgotten repertory, and Dutch cellist Doris Hochscheid and pianist Frans van Ruth give it their all in a revival effort. Listeners may be surprised to find that the music's primarily influences are not German, but French. Perhaps these Dutch composers realized what was going to happen to them; the Rotterdam home of Luctor Ponse was destroyed by the Luftwaffe in 1940. The forms, however, are those of the German Romantic sonata. It's an odd mixture of delicate textures and rich late Romantic harmony that won't be to everyone's taste, but is certainly given passionately committed readings here. The most successful work here may be the turbulent Sonata for violoncello and piano of Willem Pijper, written in 1919 when the composer was 25. It's the sort of piece that throws everything at the wall to see what sticks, and it really does not resemble anything coming from Europe's musical centers at the time. Pijper's second sonata was doubtless taken at the time as a more accomplished work, but is less memorable today. The sonatas by Ponse and Rudolf Escher were both written as Europe was burning, but you'd be hard pressed to hear that in the rather weighty fugue in Ponse's slow movement. The sound, produced at the German monastery farmhouse that has been the site of some of MDG's best chamber recordings, is superb. The earlier Pijper sonata, especially, could serve cellists well in recital. Notes are in English, German, and Dutch.

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