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Edith Eisler
Strings Magazine, July 2010

The two players are masterful, but use their technique and tonal palette only for musical ends, never for show. The cellist’s tone is warm, pure, and variable in all registers, and the pianist has at his disposal an enormous diversity of touch, color, and nuance. Their ensemble is close and unanimous—even the balance is exemplary. Completely attuned to each other, they weave a seamless tapestry of lines, phrases, and nuances. Their playing is very expressive, but direct and unaffected, without fuss or exaggeration. © 2010 Strings Magazine Read complete review

Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, July 2010

A blurb on the back cover of this album states that “Fauré’s musical language bridged a gap between 19th-century Romanticism and the music that appeared with the new century.” Sounds like something I’ve said before, even having gone so far as to say that Fauré is the missing link between Brahms and Debussy. Whether one chooses to accept that argument or not, it cannot be denied that Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924), a disciple of Saint-Saëns and an admirer of Schumann, Liszt, and Wagner, had, by the turn of the 20th century, largely fashioned a personal style based on the teachings of Gustave Lefèvre, as set forth in his book Traité d’harmonie, published in 1889. In it Lefèvre advances the idea that chords of the seventh and ninth are not dissonant, ergo, they do not require resolution; and that the third of the scale may freely alternate between major and minor within a “composite” scale that incorporates both modes. These ideas were of course embraced by the likes of Walter Piston and Roger Sessions in their own updated 20th-century treatises on harmony. And one hasn’t far to travel from the unresolved sevenths and ninths of Lefèvre and Fauré to the chromatically altered seventh, ninth, 11th, and bi-tonal chords, and the whole-tone and pentatonic scales of Debussy.

Most of the works on this disc are early to middle Fauré, and thus closer in content and style to the romantic aesthetic than they are to the composer’s later efforts. And three of the pieces are arrangements of works originally written for other media. The famous Après un rêve of 1870, presented here in a transcription by Pablo Casals, was conceived as a mélodie for voice and piano. The 1878–79 Berceuse was a violin and piano piece. And the ubiquitous 1887 Pavane, given here in an arrangement by Henri Büsser, was an orchestral work with choral parts later added.

Placing the remaining numbers, originally for cello, in chronological order, we have the Elégie (1883), the Romance (1894), Papillon (1894), Sicilienne (1898), the Sérénade (1908), the First Sonata (1917), and the Second Sonata (1921). While Fauré’s output did not cease in the decade between the 1898 Sicilienne and the 1908 Sérénade, it’s interesting to note that his 1898 incidental music to Pelléas et Mélisande was quite possibly his final doffing of his 19th-century Romantic hat. There’s no questioning that the next few years were a time of reexamination for Fauré. Surely, he must have heard Debussy’s opera based on the same play that was premiered in 1902, and possibly even Schoenberg’s exactly contemporaneous tone poem on the subject. And though I doubt that Sibelius would have been known in France at this early date, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Fauré may even have heard the Finnish composer’s 1905 incidental music of the same title. Whatever the extent of Fauré’s exposure to these various stimuli may have been, changes in his compositional style and technique become evident with his 1906 song cycle La Chanson d’Eve, op. 95.

Both of the cello sonatas belong to Fauré’s late period, the second of the two being among his last works. While still conforming to a Classical three-movement fast-slow-fast pattern, the harmonic language is now freer and the melodic treatment more fluid, giving a sense that the music is “through-composed.” With the exception of an 1888 Petite pièce in G Major, op. 49, which has been lost, the current Naxos disc, as far as I know, gives us all of Fauré’s original works for cello, plus the three aforementioned arrangements.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, March 2010

Six of Faure’s favourite chestnuts of the repertoire surround the two seldom-heard Cello and piano Sonatas, masterpieces in the form. The glowing and warm performances by the Israeli team of Ben-Sasoon and Sternfield are simply ideal, as are the acoustics of the recording. Here in one attractive package is the best of Faure’s output for cello and piano in a generously packed CD.

Mish Mash Music Reviews, March 2010

…this particular album would be a great introduction to Fauré because of this steady, hands-on approach. It captures the essence of the music without straying too far, allowing the listener to branch out from there. Add to the fact that this is a complete rendering of his output for cello, and you have a fantastic starter for the rest of his chamber music.

Jeff Simon
The Buffalo News, February 2010

…this gorgeous disc by a couple of enormously engaging figures in Israel’s musical life, you not only have Faure’s two cello/piano sonatas, “Elegie,” “Romance” and “Sicilienne,” but also cello adaptations of his “Apres un Reve,” and famous “Pavane.” There was no composer quite like Faure in graceful and refined Romanticism, and this disc is completely irresistible.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2010

The disc offers the usual ‘complete’ cello works by Gabriel Fauré with three added tracks of cello arrangements to make a well-filled release. Though his cello output is much valued it was not extensive, with the two sonatas, his only substantial scores for the instrument, coming from his later years. They were both to contain music of a passionate nature, yet only once does Fauré use a dynamic marking above forte throughout the First Sonata, its long lyric lines flooding the score with attractive elongated melodies. The Second Sonata is a more virile work, the opening movement often jagged in content, at times almost with a feel of menace in the piano part. A central and rather sad Andante precedes the stormy and outgoing finale. The remainder of the disc is given to salon music he composed both in their original form and in arrangements. The tender Elegie and Sicilienne, form part of the cellist’s standard repertoire, and it must have been very tempting to include Busser’s arrangement of the orchestral score of Pavane, though the metric accompaniment to the main melody is not best suited to the keyboard. The soloist is Ina-Esther Joost Ben-Sasson, a competition winner in years past and the principal cellist of the Jerusalem Symphony. She produces the fine-spun tone required, her intonation very reliable, and with a good feeling for French music. She is admirably supported by the American-born pianist, Allan Sternfield, who moves admirable from his role of accompanist to that of an equal partner in the sonatas. Well recorded balance but a trifle hard in the piano tone.

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