of Dutton Epoch
Cello Sonata in e minor (1859)
Walter Macfarren (1826-1905) though important in his own right was overshadowed by his brother Sir George Alexander Macfarren who was not only a composer but director of the Royal Academy of Music and a Professor of Music at Cambridge University. Walter, however, was known as a fine concert pianist, conductor and composer. He, too, was a Professor of Music, but at the Royal Academy in London. His student days were at the Royal Academy where Mendelssohn was considered up-to-the minute in musical style. That his cello sonata shows the influence of that great master, then, should come as no surprise.
Although Macfarren's Cello Sonata in e minor has been dated (erroneously) as late as 1867, it was completed around 1859 and premiered in 1861 by the famous cellist Piatti with the composer at the piano. The wonderful first movement, Allegro appassionato, with its cascading piano accompaniment, is gripping from the opening bars. A powerful first subject is followed by a more lyrical and reflective second. Next comes a playful Scherzo, Allegro giocoso, more dainty than thrusting. The finale serves as both a slow third movement and a quicker fourth. It opens Adagio, piu tosto recitativo and in its lengthy introduction to the main section, Allegro, it recalls the opening theme of the first movement. A big crescendo lauches the dramatic main theme of the Allegro, with its sense of urgency. Soundbites are courtesy of Dutton Epoch CD CDLX 7225
This is a real find! One of the very best cello sonatas written between those of Mendelssohn and those of Brahms. And truth be told, it can even withstand comparison with those works. This is truly a neglected masterwork. Out of print for many years, we are very pleased to reintroduce and highly recommend it to cellists everywhere.