Martin Rummel

Violoncelle à La Française

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Though it was in fact originally published as a sonata for violin and piano (for the great Belgian violinist Eugène Ysaÿe), the Franck A major Sonata began its conception as a cello sonata and was subsequently published in a version for cello and piano within Franck's lifetime. Nowadays, the sonata is performed with equal frequency and success by both instruments. The original cello version, transcribed by Jules Delsart, is by far the most commonly used; this Musicaphon album, however, features a "new" transcription by cellist Martin Rummel. Truth be told, there are very few changes to the original, and those that do exist are primarily changes in octave that usually succeed only in making the cello sound more strained. Apart from this, Rummel's performance with pianist Elizabeth Hopkins is unremarkable. Technical aspects are solid but not flawless, and musically nothing new or noteworthy is offered to entice listeners to choose this recording over the countless quality interpretations already on the market. The album continues with an obscure set of Twelve Studies in Thumb Position by 19th century virtuoso Felix Battanchon. It seems only appropriate that recordings made of etudes should either be musically fulfilling as well as technically demanding (which these are not) or executed with such fiery, proficient technical mastery (e.g., Starker's staggering recordings of Popper and Piatti etudes) so as to drop the jaws of listeners (which these also do not do). The album ends on another bland note, Battanchon's Souvenir de Beethoven, which amounts to little more than a transcription of Beethoven's Op. 8 Serenade. Musicaphon's overall sound quality acceptable though a bit murky at times; the English translation of the liner notes is poor.

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