Robert Irvine

Sonatas for Cello & Piano by Rachmaninov & Shostakovich

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Two of the finest sonatas in the repertoire, Rachmaninov and Shostakovich's cello sonatas both are squarely grounded in classical sonata forms. Shostakovich even goes so far as to include an exposition repeat in the first movement of his D minor sonata. Rachmaninov's inspiration seems to be drawn from Chopin's sonata, not surprising given each composer's pianistic proclivities; Shostakovich follows the models left by Beethoven. Both compositions are chamber music in the purest sense of the word, with no underlying "story" and with a completely interdependence between the two very active parts. Written in 1901, Rachmaninov's sonata has given performers one overriding challenge for more than a century: balance. Rachmaninov was not shy about using the full range and orchestral power of the piano even when matched against an instrument with much less power of projection. Cellist Robert Irvine and pianist Graeme McNaught easily overcome this difficulty in this very appealing, engaging Delphian album. Irvine's tone is incredibly powerful without ever seeming forced, and he and his Gofriller cello are still capable of producing a timbre with the best possible blend of clarity and warmth. The recorded sound is quite enjoyable; limited reverb or other apparent "doctoring" puts listeners in the front row, able to clearly hear every note and every articulation. In the Shostakovich sonata, Irvine's sound is even more muscular and articulate. The third movement Largo is intensely passionate, filled with brilliantly controlled dynamics, tone colors, and long, flowing lines.

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