William Sterndale Bennett
"Sonata Duo" in A Major for Cello & Piano, Op.32
One might well be excused for concluding that Mendelssohn had written a third cello sonata after hearing Bennett's "Sonata Duo", the name he gave to his cello sonata composed in 1852. But although the Mendelssohnian influence is strong, the work is no mere imitation. Its ideas are fresh and beautiful executed.
“I think him the most promising young musicians I know,” wrote Felix Mendelssohn in 1836 after hearing Bennett perform one of his own piano concertos during a concert tour of Germany.
William Sterndale Bennett (1816-1875) was born in English city of Sheffield, the son of an organist. He studied piano and composition at the Royal Academy of Music. He met and befriended Mendelssohn, who first heard him perform in London when Bennett was 17. His piano technique was such that during concert tours in Germany, he quickly gained the reputation as one of the finest pianists in Europe. Robert Schumann praised his playing and musicality quite highly. Bennett settled in London, devoting himself chiefly to teaching, eventually becoming a Professor of Music at Cambridge University. He also served as chief conductor of the London Philharmonic and later as Director of the Royal Academy of Music. Owing to his professional duties, his latter years were not creatively fertile, and what he then wrote was scarcely equal to the productions of his youth. The principal charm of Bennett's compositions (not to mention his absolute mastery of the musical form) consists in the tenderness of their conception, rising occasionally to the sweetest lyrical intensity. Except for opera, Bennett tried his hand at almost all the different forms of vocal and instrumental writing.
The huge opening movement, Adagio sostenuto-Allegro giusto, begins with a lengthy slow introduction before the appearance of the faster main section (our sound-bite begins here). The slow coda obviates a separate slow movement. The middle movement, Minuetto caracteristique, is quite original in conception. Beginning as a traditional minuet, yet it is unusually lyrical and is sports a lively and dashing middle section. The Allegetto piacevole, animato, begins with a lovely, yearning theme. A powerful middle section provides an excellent contrast.
Our reprint is of the original and only edition. Cellists will surely find this a welcome addition to their repertoire.