London Concertante’s Artistic Director, Chris Grist, and Daniel Grimwood present the second concert in our new ‘Tune In’ series, featuring extraordinary cello sonatas.
Chopin – Cello Sonata
Polish-born composer Frederic Chopin is most well-known for his mastery of the piano, showcased in his signature preludes, ballades and two piano concertos. Of his entire compositional output, only 9 works were ever published that included an instrument that wasn’t a piano!
Written in 1846, the cello sonata is one of these 9 works, and it was the last of his works published during his lifetime. Chopin dedicated it to one of his closest friends, cellist Auguste Franchomme, and the two of them together premiered the work (omitting the first movement) in Paris in February 1848 at a concert that, due to his increased financial struggles and progressively ailing health, would be Chopin’s final public performance. He did give some performances at private recitals in London later that same year, but eventually the physical toll proved too great. In the summer of 1849, his friends found a private apartment on the outskirts of Paris to live out the remainder of his life. On his deathbed, he invited Franchomme to perform the first movement from the sonata they premiered together; he passed away just two days later.
Bridge – Cello Sonata
Of the new crop of British composers that emerged following Edward Elgar’s rise to international stardom in 1899/1900, Frank Bridge is perhaps one of the more overlooked; his compositional career was often in the shadow of his contemporaries of Vaughan Williams, William Walton and, perhaps most ironically, his own student Benjamin Britten. However, Bridge was a hugely versatile musician, most well-known and appreciated today as a composer, but also a highly skilled viola player and conductor in his own right.
His music began to fall out of favour after World War I as Bridge’s compositional style moved away from his tonal, Brahms-inspired roots to a grittier, coarser harmonic language that was not nearly as well received as his earlier works. Indeed, the Cello Sonata, composed between 1913 and 1917 and perhaps one of his most successful and popular works, contains the germination of the elements of his new style of composition. Much like his student Benjamin Britten, Bridge was a staunch pacifist and so the Great War had a profound impact on him. It is a work suffused with dark colours and rapidly shifting moods, but it also contains passages of exquisite beauty and its ending is both radiant and full of hope.
© Credit: Alex Mackinder