The Strad Issue: December 2015
Description: Speedy traversals of the cello sonatas don’t delve below the surface
Musicians: Gabriel Schwabe (cello) Nicholas Rimmer (piano)
Composer: Brahms

This recording of Brahms’s cello sonatas enters a crowded field but offers precious few insights. That said, the choice of song arrangements is judicious, as by no means all of them transfer well to the cello. Here Schwabe is impressive in terms of his vocalisation of the line, and there is a certain eloquent fluidity to his playing.

The tempos in both sonatas, however, are generally less well judged. In the E minor Sonata, the Allegro non troppo is on the brisk side. The positive aspect is that the material never drags; the negative aspect is an almost perfunctory lead into the development section and a coda that is all but dismissive. If one takes the ensuing minuet to be a courtly dance, these players’ hurried approach diminishes any scope for elegance. The finale, however, is energetic and teeming with bravura, the contrapuntal strands well delineated – with a clear recording to boot.

The selected tempos prove to be a similarly mixed affair in the F major Sonata. The opening Allegro vivace has a heroic and forthright quality but, in contrast, the Adagio seems rushed, simply missing the poetic aspect of its glorious melodies. Although feisty and charged in the Allegro passionato, repeated phrases have insufficient variety, and a greater sense of melodic shaping in the finale would have avoided the impression of a surface interpretation.