The Strad Issue: January 2009
Musicians: Mischa Maisky (cello) Pavel Gililov (piano)
Composer: Strauss, Dvorák

On the surface Dvo?ák and Strauss might appear an unlikely pairing. Their connection here rests with the Czech cellist Hanus Wihan, the fortunate dedicatee both of Strauss’s Cello Sonata and Romanze written in 1883, and of Dvo?ák’s Rondo from some eight years later.

Both composers require a Romantic, lyrical delivery, a style of playing that is the absolute domain of Mischa Maisky. Astutely partnered by Pavel Gililov in this warm and clear recording, he carefully reigns in the tempestuous invention of Strauss’s first movement, contrasting a light and delicate articulation in the fugato passages with a boldly fervent presentation of the richly sumptuous melodies. This youthful sonata teems with freshness, a quality particularly well evoked in this Allegro con brio, while the intimate and atmospheric Andante has both poise and poetry, its hushed melodies unexpectedly ushered out by an exquisitely soaring moment of melancholic intensity. In maximising the characterisation of Strauss’s material, these artists produce a winning account of the Finale, which is full of the requisite whimsy. The Romanze unfolds in a similarly expressive manner.

Transcriptions have long been part of Maisky’s armoury, and he perfectly conveys the painfully beautiful nostalgia of Morgen in his own arrangement of Strauss’s song. Equally, Dvo?ák’s Violin Sonatina transfers to the cello very effectively, and both artists grace the invention with a sure feeling for its Bohemian colouring. The Scherzo is playful and the concluding Allegro has plenty of bravura. Maisky and Gililov both revel in the unabashed virtuosity of the Rondo, which audaciously oscillates between captivating melodies and cascading sequences, and the pyrotechnics never get in the way of simple charm.    

Joanne Talbot