Brahms’s two cello sonatas are accompanied by a welcome selection of transcriptions
Zuill Bailey’s transcription of the scherzo from the ‘F-A-E’ Sonata, with its original melodic line presented an octave lower, is an excellent addition to the cello repertoire. The ending of the work may be weak, but in this fiery and passionate reading it will inevitably be an audience pleaser. Equally the Lieder arrangements – many of which are available in David Geringas’s masterly editions published by Simrock – work extremely well, and are given sensitive and eloquent performances in this beautifully clear recording. I particularly like the wistfulness both performers bring to Lerchengesang, although the rather hackneyed Wiegenlied that closes the disc is a bit too sentimental for my taste .
The main fare of the disc is obviously the two cello sonatas, where Bailey and Awadagin Pratt provide well-honed ensemble and largely convincing playing. I find the tempo for the opening of the E minor Sonata rather slow, and the rubato overdone in an effort to point the harmonies, but the finale is exciting and has impressive clarity and balance, given the often low tessitura of the cello writing. The first movement of the F major work misses some of the music’s heroic spirit, but the Allegro passionato is a feisty affair. Although hardly containing groundbreaking repertoire, this CD offers an attractive compilation, and a generous duration.