United Kingdom Beethoven, Shostakovich, Prokofiev. Daniel Müller-Schott (cello), Simon Trpčeski (piano), Wigmore Hall, London, 14.11.2014 (RB)
Beethoven – Cello Sonata in D Op 102 No. 2
Shostakovich – Cello Sonata in D Minor Op 40
Prokofiev – Cello Sonata in C Op 119
Daniel Müller-Schott and Simon Trpčeski are both distinguished concert soloists so it was no surprise to see a packed Wigmore Hall for this recital.
The programme began with the last of the Beethoven Cello Sonatas, which was written in 1815 in the period immediately before the composer became embroiled in legal disputes over the custody of his nephew. There was much to admire in this performance by Müller-Schott and Trpčeski. There was an ease and fluency in the way they exchanged musical ideas and the balance of sound was perfect. Occasionally I felt Trpčeski’s playing could have been a little cleaner and dryer in the first movement but Müller-Schott’s playing was superb. I liked the unaffected simplicity of the opening of the second movement and Müller-Schott proceeded to give us some rapt and eloquent playing and immaculately crafted phrases. Both players did an excellent job with the voicing and textures of the fugal last movement although I felt the playing was almost too refined and I would have liked to hear more of the earthy, gritty quality in the music.
Shostakovich wrote his Cello Sonata in 1934 immediately after his short- lived love affair with the 20 year-old Yelena Konstantinovskaya. The composer was clearly going through something of an emotional roller- coaster ride at the time and much of his inner turmoil was distilled into this work. There was some highly imaginative and richly coloured playing from both players in the first movement. The opening had a disarming immediacy which propelled us into Shostakovich’s complex emotional world. The lyrical second subject had a warm luminous glow that built to an impassioned climax but there were also spiky exchanges and sinister shadows in the background and feelings of fear and dread. Müller-Schott did a brilliant job bringing out the rasping ferocity of the scherzo while maintaining beauty of tone while Trpčeski gave us very clean and well- articulated passage work. The flageolet passages had a surreal quality and they were nicely complemented by some light and playful flourishes from Trpčeski. Müller-Schott played the meditative Largo with an unblemished beauty of tone and succeeded in achieving an epic tragic grandeur. An impish sense of mischief seemed to infuse the opening of the last movement and there was some thrillingly virtuosic playing from both performers.
Prokofiev’s Cello Sonata is a late work which was written in 1949 at a time when he was on the receiving end of various denunciations from the Soviet authorities. Richter and Rostropovich gave the première of the sonata and Richter subsequently described the torturous approval process in which they had to perform the work to various committees who were in no position to judge its merits. In spite of the difficulties the sonata somehow retains a sunny sense of optimism and it is reminiscent of some of Prokofiev’s early ballet scores. Müller-Schott and Trpčeski are worthy successors to Richter and Rostropovich and they gave a superb account of the work. I liked the easy flow and interplay of ideas in the opening movement and the lyrical second had an easy charm and grace. Both performers nailed the quirky balletic quality of the scherzo and I really enjoyed the playfulness and sense of mischief that they brought to the music. Müller-Schott also gave us some beautifully judged expressive playing in the songful trio section. The finale was full of genial high spirits and I enjoyed Trpčeski’s handling of the rhythmic accompaniment which kept the movement buoyant and light.
The Wigmore audience responded with enthusiastic applause and were treated to a transcription of Chopin’s nocturne in C Sharp Minor as an encore. It was a super ending to a great concert.