The Strad Issue: January 2012
Description: Neglected Romantic cello sonatas brought alluringly to life
Musicians: Manuel Fischer-Dieskau (cello) Connie Shih (piano)
Composer: Reinecke

Three Romantic sonatas for the cello ought to be enough to set the pulses racing given the relative paucity of worthy material from this period. However, although these works by Carl Reinecke (1824–1910) offer some repertoire solutions, they are a mixed success in terms of their musical invention. The earliest is uneven, but it has some delightful moments and pleasant melodic ideas. The Third, dedicated to the memory of Brahms, is more self-conscious in trying to emulate the gravitas of the esteemed master, and somehow in the process loses a certain freshness. By far the most convincing is the Second Sonata, which has patches of delightful Mendelssohnian melodies draped in Schumannesque harmonies.  

This outstanding recording serves the duo well, with the piano and cello finely balanced. Manuel Fischer-Dieskau – son of baritone Dietrich and cellist Irmgard Poppen – offers suavely toned shaping of the melodies that is both intelligent and expressive while eschewing any hint of over-ornate delivery and indulgent rubato. Pianist Connie Shih beautifully evokes Reinecke’s melodic charm, pointing the harmonies and bringing perceptive shaping to the phrases. These are hardly neglected masterpieces, yet such persuasive advocates as Fischer-Dieskau and Shih showcase their potential for inclusion in recital programmes with direct and pleasing musical allure.

Joanne Talbot