Sonata in E minor op. 38 Brahms (1833 – 1897)
Allegro non troppo
Allegretto quasi menuetto
Brahms’ two sonatas for cello and piano were separated by 24 years. This earlier work, in fact the first he wrote for solo instrument with piano, was written between 1862 and 1865. It has been called the first important cello sonata since Beethoven, and the lyrical sweep of its melody, apparent from the very start, is reminiscent of Beethoven. Originally there were four movements, including an adagio, but Brahms was notorious for destroying music which he felt did not meet his exacting standards, and the adagio has disappeared, although some have suspected that it reappeared in the second sonata.
In the substantial first movement the long, brooding theme leads to impassioned dialogue between the two instruments. After the recapitulation, the coda gradually recedes into the distance, in gentle warmth. The following minuet has a classical feel, an eighteenth-century primness which contrasts with the romantic ardour of the first movement. The trio weaves a long melody with a shimmering accompaniment. The final movement starts with a fugue, based on one of Bach’s themes from the Art of Fugue, before breaking free, becoming at times more pastoral, then more dancelike. But the fugue reappears, as the piu presto coda drives to the end. First ACMC Performance
Bridging the Day Beamish (1956 – )
Day break – Morning Shimmer – Midday: the Heron – Afternoon: the Brook – Sundown
This beautiful lyrical work was inspired by the surroundings of Brook Cottage, the home of Sally Beamish’s friend Gerry Mattock who commissioned the piece. It explores the different aspects of light across the valley where the cottage lies, taking the listener from daybreak through the “morning shimmer” of the sun and the afternoon of the bubbling brook to sundown. The appearance of the heron at midday is particularly striking as his taking flight is reflected in the cello soaring to glorious heights.
First ACMC Performance
Prabhanda John Mayer (1930 – 2004)
John Mayer was born in one of the poorest Muslim areas of Calcutta of an Anglo-Indian father (of German descent) and an Indian Catholic mother. He had a huge desire to unite different musical world religions and create a fusion between Indian and Western musical styles. Prabhanda was an ancient form of musical composition which endured in India until the time of the Muslim occupation. It consists of a group of pieces strung together, in a similar way to a Western suite.
The first movement Amparai Kirtan is for solo cello and evokes a district of Barduraduira in Sri Lanka. The 6-note melody is constructed in the style of an Ampari village song. This leads directly into Alaap which is traditionally the introductory slow movement of an Indian Raga. The cello imitates ornamental vocal techniques over exotic piano resonances. Tihai is a short melodic and rhythmic phrase that sandwiches a slow improvisatory trio section. Jhalla hales from a Raga and evokes a sitar improvisation comprising a wild and frenetic dance. Rapidly repeated notes and drum-strokes of the tabla are particular prevalent. The final movement Gat is based on a repeated figure consisting of 15 beats. The two fiery outer sections are contrasted with a luscious improvisatory trio section. First ACMC Performance
Sonata for cello and piano op. 19 Rachmaninov (1873 – 1943)
Lento – Allegro moderato
The first performance of Rachmaninov’s first symphony in 1897 was a critical disaster, a blow to the young composer from which he took several years to recover. A few years later, however, with renewed confidence he produced what is probably his best known work, the second piano concerto, which was a resounding success. Written in the same year, the cello sonata is of the same quality, although less familiar. It is one of the very few pieces of chamber music from a composer renowned as a pianist, and the sheer brilliance of the piano writing gives the work much of its dramatic power. However, the cello suits Rachmaninov’s passionate style exceptionally well, and the two instruments combine to give power and feeling to a work which is conceived on a grand scale.
A poetic slow introduction leads to the lyrical allegro moderato. The energetic scherzo which follows has a contrasting gentler central section. There is more passion and lyricism in the concise yet deeply felt slow movement, where the piano writing is increasingly rich. Then a brief call to arms heralds the last movement, with two main themes, the first urgent the second quietly noble. To finish, there is a brief vivace coda, which was apparently added by Rachmaninov after he gave the first performance with the sonata’s dedicatee, the cellist Anatoly Brandkov, in Moscow in December 1901.
Last ACMC Performance: the Gilliver-Janes Duo, January 1997