French Cello Sonatas: Chopin • Farrenc • Saint-Saëns
David Berlin (cello)
Benjamin Martin (piano)
The cello’s rich, singing tones are a perfect match for the passionate eloquence of the Romantic era. In the masterful hands of David Berlin, Principal Cellist of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, partnered by internationally acclaimed pianist Benjamin Martin, the cello reveals its sublime range of colours and timbres.
This intimate album presents radiant music for cello and piano from three masters of the French Romantic: the lyrical beauty of Chopin, the elemental power of Saint-Saëns, and serene elegance from Louise Farrenc.
Frédéric Chopin is best known for his piano music, but his poetic genius also drew him inexorably to the cello – the only other instrument to which he gave pride of place as a chamber soloist, with three major works for cello and piano. Chief among these is his Cello Sonata in G minor, an intense emotional journey that ranges from poignant melancholy to dancing elation and hope, via a dream-like nocturne of exquisite calm.
Louise Farrenc was a leading light in the musical landscape of 19th-century France. Celebrated during her lifetime as a composer, pianist and teacher – the only woman professor at the Paris Conservatoire, who insisted on and finally gained equal pay with her male colleagues – her music is now being rediscovered by new generations of music lovers. Her Cello Sonata blends Classical refinement and subtlety with striking harmonic textures and sparkling virtuosity.
The almost ferocious energy of Saint-Saëns’ First Cello Sonata has more than a hint of Beethoven in the drama and declamatory power of its opening movement, but the clouds give way to pure sunshine for the middle movement – an Andante with a true spring in its step – before the tempestuous finale.
The album closes with one of the best-loved cello melodies of all time: The Swan, from Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals. The cello’s lyrical line, gliding gracefully over the rippling harmonies of the piano, is the essence of tranquillity.
For 35 years, David Berlin has been at the forefront of music performance in Australia, as Principal Cello of both the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra (1985–88) and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (since 1989), and as guest Principal Cello with the Sydney and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras, the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the Australian World Orchestra. His chamber music partners have included Kolja Blacher, James Ehnes, Nigel Kennedy, Sarah Chang, Ian Bostridge, Garrick Ohlsson, Emanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman, and he gave the world premiere performance of Liszt’s complete cycle of works for cello and piano with Leslie Howard, in London in 1992.
Award-winning pianist Benjamin Martin has appeared regularly with the Australian Chamber Orchestra as well as partnering with such luminaries as Joshua Bell, Alina Ibragimova, Pekka Kuusisto and Hartmut Lindemann. He is a performer of exceptional intensity and subtlety of expression – ‘the consummate artist’, according to The Age – and also a highly regarded composer whose music has been performed around Australia and in the US.
FRÉDÉRIC CHOPIN (1810–1849)
Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 65
LOUISE FARRENC (1804–1875)
Cello Sonata in B-flat major, Op. 46
CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS (1835–1921)
Cello Sonata No. 1 in C minor, Op. 32
Total Playing Time: 77’26
ABC Classics 1CD
Released October 2020