Albéric Magnard

Sonata for cello & piano in A major, Op. 20

    Description by Adrian Corleonis

    Magnard's sudden abandonment of Paris in the summer of 1904 and the installation of his ménage -- his wife, two young daughters, and a stepson -- in a country retreat, the spacious Manoir des Fontaines on the outskirts of Baron, a village in the Oise district, despite abundant charms, exacerbated his alternations of enthusiasm and melancholia. In his isolation, he was an attentive father avidly pursuing his own "family romance," playing soldier with his girls, who saluted him as "mon Colonel" or "Monsieur le Ministre," when he was not playing opera extracts with histrionic exaggerations for them, the "Air des bijoux" from Gounod's Faust being a particular favorite. He watched jealously over their studies and gave Ève, the older girl, piano lessons. Occasional visits to the capital for performances of his works broke the monotony -- November 6, 1905, Chevillard led the Concerts Lamoureux in his Third Symphony, composed in 1896 and not heard in Paris since 1899, to warmly admiring notices. It was heard again on January 7 and 14, 1906, and not again until after his death. His Trio received its premiere at Paris' Salle Aéolian on January 19, 1906. When on February 23, 1908, Ropartz at Nancy mounted the third act of Guercoeur, an opera of testamentary significance -- which would not be heard complete until 1930 -- not one of his friends came from Paris. Winters at the Manoir des Fontaines were cruel -- snow, cold, the impossibility of keeping domestics provoked "spleen le plus noir." The inevitable tension between his idealization of Woman -- das ewig Weibliche -- and quotidian reality spurred an ambivalent violence of feeling, more or less explicit in his first opera, Yolande (1891), the Quatre Poèmes en musique (1902), the Hymne à Vénus (1904), and Bérénice (1905-1908) -- his final opera and supreme masterpiece -- though this characteristic stress is felt throughout his works, in the Trio, for instance, no less than in the Cello Sonata. Magnard began the Cello Sonata in August 1909, completing it in August 1910. It is new wine in old bottles -- pathological turbulence extrapolated in pared classical sonata form whose incongruity is heightened by a first-movement fugal development and savagely drumming, folk-like scherzo (marked Sans faiblir -- "without faltering"). The latter segues into another of Magnard's Funèbre elegies, tollingly morose and nobly visionary. The final movement's manic energy, pausing momentarily for wistful asides, sweeps to a vehement end. Fernand Pollain and Blanche Selva gave the premiere chez the Société Nationale, Salle Pleyel, on February 25, 1911.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Sans lenteur
    2. Sans faiblir
    3. Funèbre
    4. Rondement

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2015 Centaur Records CRC 3337
    2014 Timpani 4 C 4228
    2012 Editions Hortus HOR 085
    2012 Hänssler Classic CD 98654
    2003 Hyperion 67244
    1997 Valois 4807
    Accord 220562
    Accord 200752
    Classico 243
    Talent Records 291014
    UW Madison, School of Music 9071