Sunday, 19 July 2015

Terrific performances on cello sonatas by Prokofiev, Britten and Shostakovich from Daniel Müller-Schott and Francesco Piemontesi on a new release from Orfeo

Cellist Daniel Müller-Schott was born in Munich, Germany and studied under Walter Nothas, Heinrich Schiff and Steven Isserlis. He benefited early on from personal sponsorship by Anne-Sophie Mutter as the holder of a scholarship from her foundation enabling him to receive private tuition from Mstislav Rostropovich.  In 1992, at the age of fifteen, he first caused a sensation internationally by winning the 1st Prize at the Moscow International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians.

Since then he has worked with leading international orchestras and with such renowned conductors as Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach, Iván Fischer, Alan Gilbert, Bernard Haitink, Jakub Hrůša, Pietari Inkinen, Neeme Järvi, Dmitrij Kitajenko, Lorin Maazel, Jun Märkl, Kurt Masur, Andris Nelsons, Gianandrea Noseda, Sakari Oramo, Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Vasily Petrenko, André Previn, Michael Sanderling, Jukka-Pekka Saraste and Krzysztof Urbański. Daniel Müller-Schott plays the Ex Shapiro Matteo Goffriller cello, made in Venice in 1727.

Daniel Müller-Schott has already built up a sizeable discography under the ORFEO, Deutsche Grammophon, Hyperion, Pentatone and EMI Classics labels winning him Gramophone Editor’s Choice, Strad Selection, the BBC Music Magazine’s ‘CD of the month’ and the Diapason d’Or for his recording of Britten’s solo suites on the Orfeo label.

Now from Orfeo Daniel Müller-Schott is joined by Francesco Piemontesi in performances of cello sonatas by Prokofiev, Britten and Shostakovich.

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Pianist Francesco Piemontesi was born in Locarno, Switzerland. He studied with Arie Vardi before collaborating with Murray Perahia, Cécile Ousset and Alexis Weissenberg. One of his great teachers and mentors was Alfred Brendel. He rose to international prominence with prizes at several major competitions, including the 2007 Queen Elizabeth Competition. Between 2009-2011 he was chosen as a BBC New Generation Artist.

Francesco Piemontesi has appeared with major ensembles worldwide and with such conductors as Zubin Mehta, Marek Janowski, Sakari Oramo, Vasily Petrenko and Charles Dutoit. As a chamber musician he has played with a variety of partners such as the Emerson Quartet, Antoine Tamestit and Jörg Widmann, Renaud and Gautier Capuçon, Clemens Hagen, Yuri Bashmet, Angelika Kirchschlager and Heinrich Schiff.

Francesco Piemontesi has also released a number of recordings, including Schumann Sonatas and a mixed recital of Handel, Brahms, Bach, and Liszt for Avanti Classics. More recently he has made three recordings for Naïve Classique, Mozart Piano Works, Schumann and Dvořák‘s Piano Concerti with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Jiří Bělohlávek, and the Debussy Preludes.

The works on this new disc are all connected directly and indirectly by one man, the great cellist, Mstislav Rostropovich. Prokofiev’s sonata was inspired by the playing of Rostropovich and first performed by the great cellist with pianist Sviatoslav Richter. Britten’s sonata was written for Rostropovich and Shostakovich was a close friend of both Rostropovich and Britten. This is, then, an excellent choice of repertoire to bring together on one disc.

What a beautiful rich tone Daniel Müller-Schott brings to the opening of the Andante grave of Prokofiev’s Sonata for cello and piano in C major, Op.119 (1949) with Francesco Piemontesi adding a subtle gentle support. There is some exceptionally fine interplay between these artists. They build this movement wonderfully; setting Prokofiev’s withdrawn moments beautifully against the more impassioned moments. Müller-Schott’s rich singing tone and Piemontesi’s beautifully shaded playing provide some lovely moments before the hushed end.

They bring a beautifully light and buoyant Moderato full of surface sparkle and wit, yet these players reveal a darker side as the movement develops. There is a very fine central flowing section with these players bringing a fine clarity to the faster episodes.

The Allegro ma non troppo brings a lovely flexibility from Müller-Schott with Piemontesi providing a terrific dexterity. Their ensemble is spot on following every little twist and turn.  They bring moments that are still and thoughtful, even mysterious in nature, superbly played with such a light touch. As the music takes off in the later passages there is superb playing, with these artists ratcheting up the drama before the impassioned coda.

This is a very fine performance indeed.

The Dialogo. Allegro of Benjamin Britten’s Sonata for cello and piano in C, Op.65 (1961) has an exquisite opening sequence as cello and piano gently respond to each other. The music soon takes off with some terrific playing, full of strength and drama and some terrific harmonies and dissonances.  Müller-Schott and Piemontesi bring a natural, improvisatory feel to their playing, beautifully paced and phrased. They develop the little scales that appear to be something much more and the hushed coda is superbly done.

With the Scherzo Pizzicato. Allegretto these players bring out all of Britten’s strange, skittish atmosphere. They find a coolness, withdrawn yet lively, almost ghostly at times, certainly troubled. They respond so well to each other as they chase each other. Quiet, mournful piano chords open the Elegia. Lento to which the cellist adds an equally mournful tone. They bring a delicate playfulness as the theme is developed, becoming more troubled as it rises, eventually to a great passion with a wailing cello motif over a florid piano part, brilliantly played by this duo. There is another ghostly hushed passage finely played here.

Piemontesi brings some finely crisp phrasing to the Marcia. Energico against which Müller-Schott provides some fine dramatic phrases. There are some terrific rhythmic passages as well as lovely harmonics from the cello.  This cellist provides such light bowing in the opening of the Moto Perpetuo. Presto. There is a lovely lighter episode before the tempo and drama pick up and these players move headlong to the coda.

This is a terrific performance in every way.

Müller-Schott  and Piemontesi  find a lovely tempo for the opening of the Allegro non troppo – Largo of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Prokofiev: Sonata for cello and piano in D minor, Op.40 (1934). They build through the following drama with consummate skill, great agility and intuitive accuracy. The slow section that follows is beautifully shaped and paced, a fine balance between artists. They bring a fine flow with finely judged phrasing from Müller-Schott. There is a natural forward push into the faster, more passionate passages, each time rising in passion. Piemontesi adds such a fine breadth of playing as the music rises and, towards the end, a strange and ghostly version of the theme is slowly taken forward in steps to the hushed coda.

The very fine Allegro is not taken too fast but with plenty of forward thrust and again spot on precision between players. There is a terrific central section with Müller-Schott’s bowing so lithe and light and spot on coda with its sudden end.

The Largo rises beautifully and wistfully, leading to one of Shostakovich’s finest melodies with these players bringing a sense of underlying tragedy as the theme develops. There are some exquisite touches from Müller-Schott before the music rises centrally to a passionate peak, Piemontesi providing some fine phrases against which the cellist pulls back to a quieter stance. They reveal some of the unsettling emotions lurking behind this piece with a coda that brings a hushed, sad conclusion – beautifully played.

There is a crisply pointed opening to the Allegro from the pianist, reflected by the cello with pin point precision before these artists move the music forward with a sense of restlessness. In the centrally fast section, both cellist and pianist bring some dazzling playing before building a hushed tension to lead to the sparkling coda.

These are terrific performances very well recorded with informative booklet notes. 

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