Sonata for Violoncello & Piano in A Major, Op.18
Zygmunt Stojowski (1870-1946) was born in the Polish town of Strzelce. He studied piano and composition at the Krakow Conservatory with Wladyslav Zelenski and later at the Paris Conservatory with Louis Diemer, Leo Delibes and Theodore Dubois. He also studied privately with Ignacy Paderewski. Stojowski lived in Paris from 1888 to 1906, gaining a reputation as a world concert class pianist and also as a fine composer. In 1906, he was invited to teach in New York at the Institute of Musical Art (which later became the Juilliard Music School). He spent the rest of his life in the United States, where he became one of the most sought after piano teachers. Most of Stojowski's music was for the piano, however, he did compose two violin sonatas and a cello sonata.
The Cello Sonata in A Major dates from 1892 and on the manuscript he wrote Op.17, however, when the work was published in 1894, Op.18 appeared on it. It was dedicated to his close friend, the famous Polish pianist Ignacy Paderewski. This explains why the piano part is given equal prominence with the cello.
The big opening movement is in two parts. It begins as a calm, Andante, with the cello singing a beautiful but plastic melody in its lower and middle registers. In the main part of the movement, Allegro risoluto, the tempo is a bit quicker and there are several dramatic climaxes but the mood essentially remains the same. The lovely middle movement, Andante, features a highly romantic melody in which the cello gracefully climbs from its lower registers to its highest where it soars. In the magnificent and exciting finale, Allegro con fuoco, the cello springs forth with a dramatic melody played over a restless piano accompaniment, which provides a superb backdrop for the beautiful cello writing.
This is an absolutely first rate work, which had it been written by a better known composer, would certainly have entered the repertoire. It certainly deserves to be heard in recital where it is sure to make a powerful impression. Serious cellists looking for a fresh, late Romantic masterwork, can do no better than choosing this fine sonata. Unavailable for the better part of a century, we are pleased to reintroduce it.