The Cello Sonata would be one of his last.

The Cello Sonata would be one of his last.
The Cello Sonata would be one of his last.

Back to French Radio transcriptions again this week. This time featuring something familiar played by two highly regarded artists of the 1950s – Roger Albin, cello and Claude Helffer, piano.

They play the Debussy Sonata for Cello and Piano, as recorded in a radio session for ORTF in Paris, circa 1955.

A word or two about this Sonata from Meg Ryan of The Los Angeles Philharmonic:

Initially subtitled “Pierrot is angry at the moon,” the Sonata for Cello and Piano does have in it some of the modern-day commedia dell’arte sensibility – a raw, heart-on-the-sleeve, dark humor. The Cello Sonata is the most unrefined, emotionally exposed of the three sonatas – maybe even of all Debussy’s works. The opening movement lays out a singing theme in the cello, by turns churning up ecstatic outbursts and quiescent moans. The middle movement is almost jazz-like in its counterpoint among three voices – piano in a dual role of melodic partner with the cello and as plucky, bluesy accompaniment, bowed cello in its upper register sharing the melody with piano, and the cello’s lowest notes, played pizzicato in an elastic syncopation that takes on the role of an upright jazz bass. There is indeed a lunar quality about this movement: Time stops and starts, melodic and harmonic themes shift between sultry darkness and starlit dances. From the final quiet statement of the serenade spills an exultant duet between cello and piano. The cello’s opening ascending sequence introduces a dancing theme which is folded into the mix for the rondo-like re-examination of the work’s previous themes.

Both Albin and Helffer are popular in collectors circles – whether this particular performance has been reissued is anyone’s guess. I suspect not, as so much of this French Radio material hasn’t been issued in any form.

In any event – a fitting end to the weekend. Enjoy.

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