Cello Sonata in B flat Major, Op.17
Agnes Zimmermann (1847-1925) was born in the German city of Cologne. At the age of nine, her family moved to London. She entered the Royal Academy of Music in London and studied piano with Ernst Pauer and composition with George Macfarren. Afterwards, she pursued a successful career as a soloist in England and abroad, but also worked as a composer. She was interested in chamber music, of which she was a frequent performer, and composed, in addition to this cello sonata, three violin sonatas, two works for piano trio, a piano quartet, a piano quintet and a string quartet.
Her Op.17 Cello Sonata dates from 1872. It is in four movements. The first movement, Allegro moderato, begins with a searching melody, conveying a sense of yearning. One can hear the influence of Mendelssohn, who at that time in England, was regarded as the greatest composer since Beethoven. A second subject is more subdued and reflective, but also expresses a sense of yearning. An Allegretto scherzando, titled Intermezzo, follows. The intermezzo was a favorite form of Mendelssohn, but this is no Mendelssohnian intermezzo, but rather a scherzo as the movement marking indicates. It begins with the cello introducing a spooky theme played pizzicato in its lowest register. A lovely and more lyrical second melody, played against a rocking accompaniment in the piano, provides a sense of forward motion. Next comes a Menuetto, marked Allegretto cantabile. By 1872, the minuet was a long outdated and little used form. Once again, what we have here is not a minuet in the classical sense at all. The beautiful, fluid singing main subject does not in any sense bring a minuet to mind. Highly attractive, the music glides along effortlessly. The big and dramatic finale, Allegro vivace, opens with an strongly accented and thrusting main subject. A second theme is gentler and rather wistful.
Our edition consists of the original piano part, to which we have added rehearsal numbers, and a newly edited cello part by Professor Marie-Aline Cadieux whose performance of the sonata was used for our soundbites.
Zimmermann knows how to write for cello and her melodies are attractive and memorable. We are pleased to reintroduce this first rate mid-romantic era work, which has been long out of print. We feel it will be an attractive addition to the repertoire of both professionals and amateurs and deserves to be heard in the recital hall.