Complete works for piano and violoncello
Felix Mendelssohn: Sonata in B major, op. 45 – Sonata in D major, op. 58 – Variations concertantes, op. 17 – Song without words, op. 109
Laura Buruiana (violoncello), Ferenc Vizi (piano)
Recorded in Salle Colonne, Paris (February 20-23, 2012) – 61’37
Coviello Classics COV 51304 – Booklet in German and English
Clara Schumann, celebrated pianist, admired Felix Mendelssohn’s piano-cello duets, reveling in the composer’s technical muscle and versatility within a work. Her husband Robert called them Mozartian. But, in his time, Mendelssohn’s sonatas were also viewed as lightweight by the patronage, even if luminaries knew otherwise. Then there was the ugly reality of growing anti-Semitism which sought to smear, if not destroy, music of Jewish composers.
As the Schumanns appreciated, Mendelssohn sonatas are an intense dialogue of instruments and exploration of musical ideas. Perhaps even a symbolic representation of love and loyalty that Felix had for his brother, Paul, four years younger, and a cellist, who had given up his music career for banking to follow in the footsteps of their father. Thomas Jacobi chronicles the history in his fine liner note essay on Mendelssohn titled “Virtuosity, Elegance and Depth”; words which also describe the studio sessions of “Mendelssohn Complete works for piano and violoncello” by cellist Laura Buruiana and pianist Ferenc Vizi.
As much as anything else, Vizi and Buruiana not only illuminate these works with their technical prowess, they are celebrating Mendelssohn’s way with sonata structures. The twelve plus minute of the Allegro movement of op. 45, (1838) draws us immediately into an adventurous musical world, in which lustrous sensibilities ebb and flow between Buruiana’s basso sonority and Vizi’s dense counterpoint. The tentative and playful back and forth of the players on the Andante, for instance, just blooms into a pool of melodic ideas and core intensity. The detailing and atmosphere summoned by Vizi and Buruiana is vibrant and instructive.
The D major sonata, op. 58 (1843) is darker even with its almost extravagant romanticism in the opening allegro assai vivace but the cello ultimately expresses mystery. Then Vizi’s jaunty piano entrance, is almost comic, then the darker, parallel line entrance of the cello laces in. It blooms into a dramatic salon drama. The scherzando, a dark minuet variation, with parallel instrument lines that wend around each other. These players make this dance so musically silky in tandem with the first movement. Then comes the cello Adagio which just transports with pathos and then disappears into Mendelssohn’s glitteringly playful finale. This passionate performance makes you feel like you are in the room with the musicians.
Variations concertantes op. 17 (1829) invoke a pristine chamber piece that burst out of its own convention with theatricality and subversive progressions. This is a stunner piece, brilliantly realized by Buruiana and Vizi. Those dizzying piano gallop in Vizi’s hands never overtaking Buruiana’s supple basso currents. Song Without Words (1845) is, of course, the final track, and the players, admirably, don’t pull back from the Romanticism.
Recorded in Salle Colonne, Paris, last year, it is engineered with superb balance and dimension by Morit Bergfeld and Nora Brandenburg. Buruiana’s 2012 recording of Brahms’ violoncello sonatas released in 2012 (read here) has, intriguingly, a completely different atmosphere, and is just as rewarding in capturing stellar musicianship and Buruiana’s interpretive skill and immediacy.