How closely the human vocal part is related to the sound of the cello and how well it harmonizes with that of the piano, are shown impressively by Audun Sandvik and Sveinung Bjelland, especially with the sonata by Rachmaninoff.
Of all the numerous cello sonatas that are offered for interpretation within the classical repertoire, one duo must find the combination of Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich particularly appealing. There are just as many similarities in this combination of works as there are serious differences that make such a project interesting. Both composers are from Russia, and although they lived in different eras, there is a period in the first half of the 20th century in which their creative phases overlap. In addition, the cello sonata occupies a special place in both complete works, because both composers wrote only a single work of this genre, although they preferred to use it in other chamber music ensembles, for example in the context of the piano trio. While the Sonata in G minor op. 19 from 1901 culminates in the culmination of Rachmaninoff's chamber music, Shostakovich is just at the beginning of his sonata work in 1934 when he wrote the Sonata in D minor op. 40 for cello and piano writes. For this reason, it is not surprising that also within the musical language overlap, but also sharp discrepancies can be found.
Rachmaninoff's work is still in the tradition of late romanticism, exploring virtuoso as well as melodic aspects down to the last detail, while at the same time integrating the tonal details in an impressive way into his composition. All these facets are presented by Audun Sandvik (cello) and Sveining Bjelland (piano) in almost perfect form. The listener reveals a musical landscape with a variety of regions that sometimes seem gloomy, sometimes dreamy, sometimes scary and sometimes melancholy-pensive. It is fascinating how Audun Sandvik literally makes his instrument sing, and Sveinung Bjelland conjures up a variety of mood patterns with finely nuanced striking technique and remarkable emotional depth in expression. Especially in the fourth movement, which is the climax of the work, the listener wishes that the music may never end, so much can one let oneself fall into this sea of sound and sing along with the endless cantilenas, or simply enjoy listening to it.
What is not only true listening enjoyment with Rachmaninoff, but also has an interpretative and tonal convincing effect, loses a little color in Shostakovich. To be sure, this is an early work by the composer, which is still very much in the tradition of late romanticism and does not formally deviate. Nevertheless, the 'typical' Shostakovich in this work is already unmistakable, which is particularly evident in the two fast movements. The musicians respond to the different sound scenarios insofar as they partially completely abstain from vibrato in Shostakovich's sonata in order to produce a fainter expression, which in certain places, such as, for example, music. in the implementation of the first sentence, only seems appropriate. The fluteolet tones of the cellist in the second movement also produce an impressive contrast to the sound of the piano in their abrupt and subtle appearance. What a listener, who has already heard much music by Shostakovich, could possibly miss here, is a certain courage to sharpness, to rabid accents and extreme contrasts, even to a deliberately chosen departure from the beautiful sound, which is not among the highest in Shostakovich Sound ideals heard. The tempo seems a bit slower in all movements than the music often suggests, and the virtuosity, which seemed elegant and fleet-footed with Rachmaninoff, sounds a bit strained here despite all the technical perfection.
Regardless, the present recording, released in 2017 on the LAWO Classics label, is recommended to all Rachmaninoff fans, and fans of cello music in general should also get their money's worth here.