Sonatas (JCL 516) by Jamie Walton & Daniel Grimwood
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The F major ’cello/piano Strauss sonata belongs to his youth
and, together with the Eb violin sonata of a few years later, is a
manifestation of adolescent high spirits. (For this reason it was high
time we committed this to disc sooner rather than later.) His father
Franz was a horn player in the Munich Opera Orchestra and his
mother was an heiress of a famous brewing family so it was through
his father he grew up steeped in the prevailing musical atmosphere.
Franz Strauss was a musical conservative and this, perhaps, is why
his son’s early works adhere so strongly to classical compositional
procedure. Despite the obvious influences of Mendelssohn, and
especially Brahms, there is nonetheless an individual voice from
the outset characterized by a fleetness of touch and sense of the
theatrical which pre-echo his astonishing achievements in the field
|Becoming renowned for his purity of tone and uncompromising musical nature, Jamie Walton is now being compared by critics to some of the great cellists of the past.|
|With a repertoire which ranges from Elizabethan Virginal music to composers of the modern day, Grimwood is carving out a reputation as one of the most varied and insightful musicians of his generation.|
Riding high in the world cello rankings, Jamie Walton's new album links the familiar Brahms first sonata with an early work by Richard Strauss, and a very fine, but an almost unknown, score from the Austrian composer Ludwig Thuille. This is passionate warm-hearted playing with faultless intonation and technically immaculate. And the sound quality is exemplary. DD
By Yorkshire Post - November 2010
Classical Music Magazine - Recording of the Fortnight
The music of Ludwig Thuille is finally getting exposure and here the cello sonata is given a convincing showcase. Set beside a warmly lyrical performance of Brahms’ E minor sonata, the melodic intricacy and varied moods of Thuille’s work come to the fore. Taking a break from their Anglo-Russian explorations on the Signum [Label], this brilliant duo revel in the romanticism, conjuring up the fiery vigour of Strauss’ youthful essay and the gravitas of the other two works.
By Phillip Sommerich, 20th November 2010
A wonderfully exuberant Strauss Sonata opens this disc, the second of the British duo's Romantic sonata series. Daniel Grimwood writes in the booklet of the 'fiendish piano and awkward cello writing', but there's no hint of this in their performance. Jamie Walton's 1712 Guarneri soars expressively in the Andante, and the spirit of Till Eulenspiegel is already evident in the Allegro vivo, whose false starts and cheeky humour are aided by well-judged rubato.
Walton keeps a light touch for the C·string opening of Brahms's E minor Sonata, creating a pleasingly soft tone colour. His ability to make even a single note deeply expressive comes into its own in the more fragmented phrases, and. after a poised Menuetto, the trio with its sotto voce repeats has a yearning expressiveness. The finale's opening octaves fire out like bullet shots, with Walton's playing punchy and athletic.
The turbulent, concerto-like piano part of the sonata by Strauss's friend ludwig Thuille is passionately played by Grimwood.lt is Walton's focused. earthy cello sound that opens the work, however. and he enjoys some unashamedly heart-on-sleeve melodies in the Adagio. The restless Allegro with its chromatic touches and dotted rhythms makes a well-characterised finale.
By JANET BANKS - The Strad November 2010
This most Germanic of romantic cello sonata collections is all about youth – or rather later youth, when early artistic experimentation gives way to something a little more controlled. All three sonatas here come from the formative stages of their composer’s careers, and – to keep the theme going – they are played by the youthful British pairing of cellist Jamie Walton and pianist Daniel Grimwood.
Richard Strauss wrote his Cello Sonata in F Op 6 at the age of 18. It’s a mix of Brahmsian conservatism – that he’d soon abandon – and high-flung heroic gestures, which would become his trademark. Walton captures the rapturous exuberance of the cello part from the opening chords to the leaping lines of it’s hunt-like finale, and the technically demanding piano part is played very convincingly by Grimwood.
Tricky piano parts are a staple of many romantic sonatas; they’re sometimes even more demanding than the solo part. With his Sonata in E minor Op 38, Brahms lets the pianist know that they’re a soloist in their own right. Grimwood tackles this part brilliantly, particularly the work’s closing fugue. Walton is no slouch either, and I love the way he accelerates into the climax of the opening movement. The disc closes with Ludwig Thuille’s Sonata in D minor Op 22. In his sleeve notes, Grimwood argues that Thuille deserves more recognition, and I agree – this is a fascinating work from the composer’s early output that contains plenty of harmonic inventiveness and intensity.
Though Walton and Grimwood have already tasted plentiful acclaim, it’s clear they still have lots to offer us.
By Simon Benger - MUSO Magazine Dec ‘10/Jan ‘11
There’s not a great deal one can say in favour of Richard Strauss’s early Cello Sonata. Formally a bit of a patchwork, it relies too heavily on rhetorical gestures rather than much of substance. You’re aware that a young composer is trying very hard to impress you, but that his ambition is running ahead of his actual attainments in the field of ‘abstract’ music. On the other hand you can forgive him a lot for his sheer panache: the work is really quite fun, some of the ideas, especially in the finale, are undeniably attractive – and a performance like this one is so good that it has you, for a moment, suspending disbelief. Jamie Walton and Daniel Grimwood launch into the impassioned braggadocio of the opening with such fervour and attack that the result is thrilling, even as you recognize that the whole passage is deliberately OTT. They do equally well with the climactic inflation in the finale, and ably prevent the weakly Mendelssohnian slow movement from falling too deeply into sentimentality.
This is certainly among the best available versions of this, if anything, over-recorded work, ranking with the ardent rhetoric and instrumental display of Johannes Moser and Paul Rivinius on Hänssler, which I find preferable to Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax on Sony, where the pianist is so prominently balanced that he almost drowns out Ma’s cello at the big moments.
Strauss’s sonata is a youthful indiscretion; the sonata of his close friend Ludwig Thuille, by contrast, is a mature work by a composer of more conservative instincts but impeccable technique. Composed in 1901-02, this is a far more impressive piece that either of Thuille’s early string quartets. Laid out on a grand scale – it’s the longest of the three sonatas here – it effortlessly sustains its length with music of a consistently high quality and interest. If Brahms is an important influence, Thuille’s orientation is very different: the first movement’s turbulent opening subject, with its massive piano writing, gives way to a lyric-heroic second subject of almost Rachmaninov-like grandeur and sweep. Whereas the youthful Thuille of the quartets thought almost entirely in terms of melody, this movement is motif-driven, with large sections generated from small melodic or rhythmic figures of a few notes each. The big, sombre Adagio slow movement is a noble conception, which allows the beauty of Walton’s tone to shine forth while testing his powers of sostenuto playing to the utmost. The muscular finale, by turns playful and sardonic, brings the work to a very satisfying conclusion. This is a sonata that deserves a place in the general cello-piano repertoire. There was an excellent ASV recording by Sophie Rolland and Marc-André Hamelin, no less (the piano part does indeed demand a virtuoso), but the only current available rival seems to be an excellent account by Marcy Rosen and Lydia Artymiw on Bridge, interestingly coupled with the Dohnányi Sonata and something even rarer than the Thuille: Tovey’s Sonata for two cellos.
In their different ways Thuille and Strauss (at any rate the teenage Strauss) were very much in thrall to Brahms, who makes a logical third to this intelligently planned programme. Walton and Grimwood turn in a first-rate performance of the E minor Sonata, playing up the lyricism rather than the gruffness in the first movement but rising to a magnificently climactic point of return in the recapitulation. There is a delightful give-and-take between the two players in the minuet-like second movement, while in the fugal finale they are like a single focused organism, firm of purpose in carrying the separate voices of the polyphony onward to an absolutely decisive conclusion. There are many competing versions equally good, of course – and Steven Isserlis with Stephen Hough are even better, as is Piatigorsky’s 1936 account with Rubinstein, Rostropovich’s with Rudolf Serkin, and Janos Starker’s with Rudolf Buchbinder. However, I would suggest that the Thuille Sonata is enough on its own to make this disc worth considering. Not only are the performances uniformly excellent but the perfection of the instrumental balance and the vividness of the recording are quite exceptional.
By International Record Review
I won’t keep you in suspense. This release has a good chance of ending up on my 2011 Want List. I’ve had occasion in prior issues to praise British cellist Jamie Walton—see Fanfare 29:6 and 32:1. He easily holds his place among today’s crop of top-ranked young players. Pianist Daniel Grimwood, who partnered Walton in a Saint-Saëns cello sonata on one of the discs I reviewed, is also an abundantly talented artist whose athletic agility at the keyboard matches up well with Walton’s nimble acrobatics and robust tone.
The Thuille sonata is not a frequent visitor to the recital hall or recording studio, yet this is the second CD of it to come my way. Ludwig Thuille (1861–1907) was another product of Carl Rheinberger’s well-attended celebrity-making factory; Humperdinck, Parker, Chadwick, Wolf-Ferrari, and Furtwängler all rolled off of Rheinberger’s assembly line neatly scrubbed, manicured, and ready to reap their hoped-for fame and fortunes. A greater influence over Thuille, however, was Richard Strauss. Thuille was Strauss’s senior by only three years, and the two men became fast, lifelong friends.
Strauss wrote his Cello Sonata in F Major in 1882, 20 years before Thuille composed his D-Minor Cello Sonata in 1902. But the former is the work of a precocious 18-year-old who was still in thrall to Brahms and who had not yet become the composer of tone poems and operas that made him famous; while the latter is the work of a 41-year-old mature composer who had found his niche and was resigned to it after three attempts at opera—Theuerdank (1894), Lobetanz (1896), and Gugeline (1900)—had failed to hold the stage. Lobetanz did score a hit in a 1911 Met staging, but it was quickly eclipsed by Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, premiered that same year in Dresden.
Thuille died suddenly and unexpectedly of heart failure at the age of 46, leaving behind only about three dozen works with opus numbers and another half dozen or so without opus numbers. The cello sonata is a relatively late work, and among those with opus number, the only major effort from his last years, save for a second violin sonata; his other late, with-opus catalog entries consist mainly of songs, pieces for male, female, and mixed choirs, and some miscellaneous piano pieces. Among the WoO works, however, there are listed a symphony, a piano concerto, and a piano quintet. So, one is left wondering how much else Thuille might have written had he lived a normal lifespan. Incidentally, the symphony, piano concerto, and both of the composer’s piano quintets have been wonderfully recorded by cpo.
Major influences in Thuille’s large-scaled, passionate, late-Romantic cello sonata are Strauss, Brahms, and Wagner, pretty much in that order. Strauss is heard in the heroic, striding gestures and long-breathed phrases, sustained by cadential avoidance and ever rising arcs of melody in the first movement. The slow second movement, almost as long as the first and last movements combined, throbs with the pathos, longing, and yearning of Brahms; while the finale dances to a rhythmic tune turned sinister by an underlying harmony and beat that conjure up Alberich, Wagner’s malignant dwarf, plotting, planning, and hammering away in the abyss of Nibelheim. Thuille makes no concession to the common convention of a last-minute major-key reprieve; the sonata ends on a note of blackness like Alberich’s baleful curse.
Compared to the Thuille sonata, Strauss’s sonata is the work of a cockeyed optimist. More accurately, it’s the effort of an exceptionally talented teenager “filled with the strut and swagger of youthful confidence,” as I described it in 32:1. Of Johannes Moser’s performance I said at the time, “With his huge tonal palette and dynamic range he strikes me as the ideal choice in this score.” That was before hearing and reviewing cellist Nancy Green’s take on the piece in 33:1. I very much liked her approach as well, which struck me as being perhaps more in keeping with Strauss’s youthful, uncomplicated openness and innocence.
In the Thuille, there’s really no contest. Marcy Rosen, reviewed in 32:2, is an accomplished cellist, and her account of the sonata is a fine one, but Walton’s lustrous tone, technical security, and musical grasp of the score distinguish him as one of today’s leading cellists. Plus, he has in Grimwood a proactive partner of equal strengths and a recording of superb quality. There was, and perhaps still is, a recording of the sonata on ASV by Sophie Rolland and Marc-André Hamelin, but I haven’t heard it. ArkivMusic doesn’t list it, but Amazon does, so it can probably still be had.
Choice in the Strauss is a bit more difficult. I could live happily with either Moser or Green, but there are so many more out there, way more than I have heard or can comment on. Lawrence Johnson had positive things to say about Steven Isserlis in 25:3, and Arthur Lintgen spoke highly in 32:5 of a recording by Jan Vogler, another cellist high on my list of top-ranking players. The main event on both of those recordings, by the way, is Strauss’s Don Quixote. But the sonata has been recorded by Piatigorsky, Rostropovich, Ma, and several others.
This brings us finally to the first of Brahms’s two cello sonatas, recordings of which equal or outnumber all but Beethoven’s A-Major Sonata, op. 69. I’m not even going to attempt a comparison. I will just say that good as Walton’s and Grimwood’s reading is, it does not supplant my longtime favorite with Nancy Green and Frederick Moyer on JRI, or a more recent live recording on Artek by Bion Tsang and Anton Nel which, in a 33:6 review, I called oo-mox to my ears (Star Trek: TNG fans will know what that means) and said that it took my breath away. Walton and Grimwood take the first movement, especially the opening theme, a bit faster than I prefer to hear it. Not that they sound rushed, but they don’t tug at the heartstrings the way Green/Moyer and Tsang/Nel do. Still, it’s a matter of personal taste and small complaint in a performance that, overall, I’d place somewhere in the top 10. With some 80-plus versions to choose from, that should put Walton and Grimwood pretty high on anyone’s grading curve.
Outstanding job by all involved, and strongly recommended.
By Jerry Dubins - Fanfare Magazine
1. ALLEGRO CON BRIO
2. ANDANTE, MA NON TROPPO
3. ALLEGRO VIVO
SONATA IN E MINOR OP. 38
4. ALLEGRO NON TROPPO
5. ALLEGRO QUASI MENUETTO
SONATA IN D MINOR OP. 22
7. ALLEGRO ENERGICO, MA NON TROPPO PRESTO
9. FINALE - ALLEGRO MA NON TROPPO