A real rarity rubs shoulders with the familiar, to refreshing effect

Sandra Lied Haga: Franck, Strohl

The Strad Issue: August 2023

Description: A real rarity rubs shoulders with the familiar, to refreshing effect

Musicians: Sandra Lied Haga (cello) Katya Apekisheva (piano)

Works: Franck: Sonata in A major. Strohl: Great Dramatic Sonata ‘Titus et Bérénice’

Catalogue number: SIMAX PSC1377

In her second album Norwegian cellist Sandra Lied Haga resurrects a programmatic sonata by Rita Strohl, a younger contemporary of César Franck at the Paris Conservatoire, playing it alongside his much better-known work.

Strohl, like Lied Haga who gave a Wigmore Hall recital aged 12, was something of a child prodigy, studying composition at the Paris Conservatoire from the age of 13. This dramatic sonata of 1892, written in her mid-twenties, takes Racine’s play Bérénice, set in Roman times, as its inspiration. Each movement represents a scene from the drama, but otherwise it follows much the usual pattern and musical language of a late 19th-century French four-movement sonata. Lied Haga’s playing style is assured and relaxed, capable of portraying both the intensity of emotion between the anguished lovers and the elegant fripperies of the scherzo. The sadness of her unaccompanied lament towards the end of in the third movement is deeply moving.

An eloquent performance of Franck’s Sonata, composed six years earlier in 1886, follows. Lied Haga and Apekisheva demonstrate a sensitive rapport, together subtly portraying the work’s fluctuating moods. Lied Haga uses portamento most effectively and draws a sweet sound from the highest reaches of her 1730 Guidanti cello. Every detail is audible in the disc’s closely recorded but well-balanced sound.