Sonata for Violoncello and Piano, Op.3
Maurice Emmanuel (1862-1938) was born in the French city of Dijon. He studied at the Paris Conservatory with Leo Delibes and Cesar Franck. He pursued a dual career as a composer and musicologist and in 1909 obtained the position of Professor of Music History at the Conservatory. Though not a prolific composer, he composed in most genres. Among his many students were Robert Casadesus, Yvonne Lefébure, Georges Migot, Jacques Chailley, Olivier Messiaen and Henri Dutilleux.
His Sonata for Cello and Piano dates from 1887 while he was still a student at the Conservatory. Even early on, Emmanuel rejected the standard scale and opted to write in a modal vein. This so infuriated Delibes that he expelled Emmanuel from his class. Nonetheless Emmanuel went his own way. The cello sonata is an example of how far ahead of his time he was. It was not published until 1921 and not performed until 1923. The Sonata is in three movements, as noted, using modal scales. Debussy’s own sonata, composed decades later was influenced by this work. In the opening Largo, the cello introduces a dark melody over the rushing notes in the piano. The music has a yearning, restless quality. The lovely middle movement, Larghetto, exploits the cello’s middle range, melodic and calm. The finale, Gigue, bears no resemblance to the baroque gigue other than its 12/8 rhythm. Clearly dance-like, it is a fierce, hard-driving tune. The second subject is more diffident and in part recalls the first movement with the rushing piano accompaniment.
This work's great originality is bound to make a deep impression on audiences and deserves to be heard in the recital hall. Long out of print, we are pleased to make it available once again.