The Strad's experts evaluate the latest string recordings
Martinů: Cello Sonatas nos.1, 2 & 3, Variations on a Slovak Theme, Variations on a Theme of Rossini
Friday, 01 October 2010
Paul Watkins (cello) Huw Watkins (piano)
Chandos CHAN 10602
Of all 20th-century composers, Martinů was one of the most generous to the cello and indeed both sets of variations as well as the Second Sonata are firmly established in the repertoire. Compositionally, the Third Sonata is more uneven than the other works here, but Paul and Huw Watkins are fervent advocates of its music, delivering a rhythmically charged and technically brilliant performance on what is an excellently recorded CD.
The duo’s approach is particularly well suited to the more urgent and percussive language of the earlier sonatas, projecting the dark current of anxiety that underpins the first most convincingly. At the same time there is a tendency, reflected particularly in the opening of the Second Sonata, to play Martinů’s syncopated rhythms as they are barred rather than developing a more sustained lyrical line, as Janos Starker, for example, does most convincingly. In a similar way, the opening of the theme to the Slovak Variations could be even freer to offset the strong rhythmic impetus of the rest of the work. That apart, however, these gifted artists sail through this repertoire with great vitality and intensity, and bring a contrasting wit and almost nonchalant technical élan to the virtuosic Rossini Variations.
From the October 2010 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.