Out there on the far fringes of the known cello repertoire lies the youthful sonatas and romances of Richard Strauss and Max Reger. The early cello works of Strauss are known only because he grew up to become the most deeply loved German composer of the post-Wagner generation while the youthful cello works of Reger -- if they are known at all -- are known only because he grew up to become the most intensely disliked composers of the same generation. Strauss' sonata and romance have the earnest classicism and sincere superficiality of his other youthful works, while Reger's have the intense counterpoint and textural turgidity of nearly all his other works.
And yet, when played by cellist Emmanuelle Bertrand and pianist Pascal Amoyel, the youthful sonatas and romances of Strauss and even Reger sound like first-rank repertoire, works of powerful passion and absolute conviction that rate with the sonatas of Mendelssohn and even Brahms. Bertrand and Amoyel make the difference, forcing the music through the depth of their belief and the strength of their will to become more than youthful infatuations and indiscretions, to become cogent and fervent and altogether persuasive. Bertrand's big tone and bigger technique coupled with Amoyel's warm tone and warmer accompaniments makes their disc the preferred recording of every work. Harmonia Mundi's sound is warm and close, but unusually hard and edgy.