Jamie Walton / Daniel Grimwood

Rachmaninov: Cello Sonata; Grieg: Cello Sonata

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The back cover of this Signum Records album, which features cellist Jamie Walton and Daniel Grimwood, states that it is "an exhilarating disc." If exhilarating means faster than anyone in memory has ever played the Rachmaninov and Grieg cello sonatas, then this assertion would be accurate. If it was meant as a descriptor as a musically sensitive, restrained, and poignant performance of two of the greatest Romantic cello sonatas, it would be inaccurate. Yes, both Walton and Grimwood are fantastically gifted performers possessing phenomenal techniques and a mastery of their instruments, but neither Grieg nor Rachmaninov are the ideal venues to display what can be done just for the sake of virtuosity. Even the slow, lush third movement of the Rachmaninov sonata only remains so for a few minutes. By the climax, Walton again pushes forward and robs the movement of its spaciousness. The outer movements of the Grieg sonata, in particular, are played at a tempo that borders on preposterous. The result for listeners is nothing more than a technical tour de force that lacks the sentimentality, the grandeur, and the sumptuousness that these sonatas have to offer and that many other recordings have delivered more appropriately. Nota bene: the timing for the fourth movement of the Rachmaninov should be 9:05, not 21:45 as listed.

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