Dutch Cello Sonatas, Volume 3 = MATTHIJS VERMEULEN: First Cello Sonata; Second Cello Sonata; JAN INGENHOVEN: First Cello Sonata; Second Cello Sonata, “Quasi una fantasia” – Doris Hochscheid, cello/ Frans van Ruth, piano – MD&G Audiomax multichannel SACD (2+2+2) 903 1655-6, 61:31 [Distr. by E1] *****:
Anytime I see contemporary music from a North European country I get nervous, and when I saw that this was Volume 3 I got really nervous. Experience has taught me some things, and one of those things is that some of the most astringent music in the world comes from that area. This time however I was needlessly worried, as Doris Hochscheid’s survey through this genre proves, at least in this volume, that there are some outstanding pieces of music that desperately need to be mined from this source.
Matthujs Vermeulen (1888-1967) was and is regarded as maybe the greatest Dutch composer ever, and he certainly voiced his approval of compatriot Jan Ingenhoven (1876-1951), though the latter has remained relatively unknown. I can’t understand why, at least based on the quality of the work under review. His two short sonatas for cello emanate a remarkable neo-romantic flavor while fully embracing the ethos of Debussy, whose presence can be felt in every bar. Even though the works are only about 15 minutes total, hearing them in sequence is a marvelous experience that makes me wonder if they should always be presented in this duo form.
The notes refer to the Second Sonata of Vermeulen as perhaps one of the “greatest cello sonatas since Debussy”. Any critic reading that automatically goes into skeptic mode, and I did immediately. Now I am not so sure that the hyperbole is in fact such. Sixteen years separate his two sonatas, and though the First (1922) is a tremendous piece of music, energetic and about as optimistic in tone as you could ask for; the Second, finally reaching completion in 1938, is sublime. Its polyphonic ecstasy and incredible emotional content grab ahold of you from the first bar and simply won’t let go. Vermeulen had a fascination for older music, and the cantus firmus-like motives that grip this work are powerful and quite moving.
Doris Hochscheid and Frans van Ruth go at this stuff with all the fervor of new converts and seem to really enjoy it, easily up to the task. MD&G’s surround sound is excellent, and I am so very happy to have had my first fears assuaged. These are flat out some terrific sonatas, and I cannot imagine anyone not liking them. This is the first SACD of this series that Audiophile Audition has reviewed, and I hope it won’t be the last, as this project is scheduled to fill about six discs.
— Steven Ritter
Pure Pleasure Records releases a re-mastered live vinyl of a great tenor saxophonist.