This would include Bartók
himself, when he came to write his magnificent solo sonata for violin, nearly
thirty years later. Not that one could call Bartók's Sonata or any of the
best works for this genre "mere imitation", but the influence is there
Kodály's predominantly tonal language and his non polyphonic style in this
Sonata, one of the greatest inspirations in the work occurs before a single note
of the piece has been played, namely backstage, when the cellist tunes his C string
down to B and his G string down to F sharp, thereby providing him with three open
strings producing the B minor triad, which is the basic tonality around which
the work evolves.
on first acquaintance the Sonata gives the impression of being rhapsodic, even
improvisatory in style, and above all very strongly stamped with the Magyar character,
as one gets to know the work more intimately it is clear that certain aspects
of the Classical tradition underlie the structure of the piece. For instance,
the first movement obviously has its structural roots in the concept of sonata
form, even if the key relationships are not what one would call orthodox. There
is a first and second subject, a development and a recapitulation starting with
the second subject. The climax of the movement comes at the very end of the development
where the opening first subject is heard fortissimo in quadruple stopping. The
second subject has a characteristic accompanying figure of a group of five notes,
which is heard intermittently. It consists of an oscillating minor second, and
plays an important role throughout the second subject material, both in the exposition
In the large central slow movement, strangely modal
melodic material reminds one of the Eastern origins of the Magyar race and folklore.
The broad and sonorous introductory phrase, largely built on the interval of the
perfect fourth, has the germs of what later in the movement become the huge, slow-moving,
arch-like melodic phrases (with their left hand pizzicato accompaniment) which
are such a prominent feature of this movement. The Eastern sounding material,
with its rapid ornamental figures immediately followed by long sustained notes,
alternates with this slow-moving music at the beginning of the movement. There
is an improvisatory episode of great splendor, marked "feroce", before
the music returns to the Eastern-sounding material, but this time in a densely
varied version with tremolos, trills, short repeated figures and arpeggios. A
final, very impressive appearance of the slow-moving music leads into a coda based
on the initial mordent of the Eastern-sounding music, with the natural high harmonics
of the four strings playing a prominent part.
finale of this Sonata is one of the most astonishing virtuoso pieces ever written
for a single instrument. It is for the cello what some of the virtuoso pieces
of Paganini, Chopin & Liszt, not to mention Rachmaninov, are for the violin
and piano respectively. It exploits every facet of virtuoso cello technique known
until the first half of the 20th century. I was very fortunate in having the opportunity
of playing this work to Kodály on one of his visits to Oxford in 1960.
He once mentioned the fact that as the whole Sonata is over thirty minutes in
length and might be too long for certain programmes, he would be happy for me
to play the finale by itself, which I do sometimes. Of course this is not the
same as playing the whole of this magnificent Sonata, which is one of the greatest
works ever written for a solo instrument.
2011 Rohan de Saram.
Rachmaninov: Sonata Op.19
the large scale, four-movement Sonatas written for piano together with another
instrument, those for piano and cello occupy a prominent position. Fine examples
of such works are the Sonatas by three great pianist-composers: Chopin, Alkan
the introduction to the first movement of Rachmaninov's Sonata, we already have
the melodic step of a rising minor second and other closely related motifs, which
play such an important role in this movement. The technique of sharing the musical
material equally between the two instruments as in a sonata by Bach, Mozart or
Beethoven, is much less apparent here, although by no means entirely absent. One
is conscious of the fact that the instruments are used in such a way as to bring
into prominence some of their strongest and most typical characteristics: the
cello in its unequalled capacity as a singing instrument and the piano with its
filigree passage-work and ability to exploit harmonic range and to clarify the
main climaxes of the sections and movements, something very central to Rachmaninov's
thinking both as a pianist and a composer. As the central and biggest climax of
the movement, at the end of its development section, uses material derived from
the first subject, the recapitulation starts with the second subject. The coda
is comparatively short and compressed. The second movement, a scherzo in C minor,
has something of the fast and driven quality of some of Beethoven's movements
in this key. The contrasting trio section, with expansive melodic writing for
the cello, is in A flat major before the return of the C minor scherzo, with a
coda vanishing into a pianissimo end.
third movement in E flat major is certainly one of the most beautiful slow movements
in the entire cello/piano repertoire. After the central fortissimo climax, the
piano takes up the main theme with the cello accompanying in triplets. The answering
phrase when the cello has the main theme, with the triplets in the piano, leads
into the coda via a dramatic and unexpected move of the harmony, very briefly
and fortissimo into the distant key of E minor before moving into E flat major
at the end.
Finale, whose first subject, in G major, is full of panache, moves fairly swiftly
into the very memorable, broadly flowing, second subject in D major. The development,
mainly concerned with first subject material, is on a large scale and moves decisively
into the recapitulation of the first subject. The second subject on its return
is heard piano at first, as if from a distance, but then the whole of the second
subject material is heard, this time in G major. The coda has a nostalgic remembrance
of certain motifs from this same material but ends briskly and fortissimo using
some elements (the rising second) from the opening material of the first movement.
© 2011 Rohan de Saram
de Saram was born in Sheffield, UK, but spent the first ten years of
his life in Sri Lanka where he started his cello studies with Martin Hohermann.
Recognised as a child prodigy, at the age of 11 Rohan went with his father to
Florence, where Gaspar Cassado was his teacher. In 1955 he won the Suggia Award
in London, which enabled him to continue his studies with Pablo Casals in Puerto
Rico and with Sir John Barbirolli in London.
soloist, Rohan has played throughout Europe, Asia, USA, Canada, Australia, New
Zealand and the former Soviet Union with the major orchestras & conductors
of the world. His debut in USA was at Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic
Orchestra at the invitation of Dmitri Mitropoulos. At a recital in America, Piatagorsky
presented him with a special cello bow which he uses for concerts. Also in America,
when at short notice Piatagorsky was indisposed, Rohan was asked to deputise for
him in the Walton Cello Concerto with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.
UK debut was at the Wigmore Hall in 1959. At this time he also had the opportunity
of working with a number of composers among whom were Walton, Poulenc, Shostakovich
and Kodaly with whom he studied the Solo Sonata, op.8. More recently he has worked,
among many others, with Berio, who wrote his final Sequenza, no. XIV, for him;
with Xenakis and Pousseur, both of whom wrote works for him; and Stockhausen,
with whom he transcribed for solo cello a movement from the Suite for clarinet
called "Amour". Rohan was for many years a member of the Arditti Quartet,
which in 1995 was awarded the Siemens prize for its services to contemporary music.
2004 Rohan was awarded an Hon. D. Litt. from the University of Peradeniya and,
a year later, was awarded a Deshamanya, the national honour of Sri Lanka.
de Saram commenced his musical studies in Sri Lanka. Since living in
England from the age of 16, he worked with such renowned musicians as Dame Myra
Hess, Stephen Bishop-Kovacevich, Daniel Barenboim and Maria Curcio. He also studied
for two years at the Moscow Conservatoire.
gave his London debut at the Wigmore Hall in 1975. He has toured extensively in
Europe & Asia both as a soloist, including tours of China, India & Australia
and as a duo with his cellist brother Rohan. Together, Rohan & Druvi have
performed at leading London venues and at prestigious international festivals
in the UK & Europe. They also toured the former Soviet Union several times.
As a chamber musician, Druvi has worked with the violinist Salvatore Accardo,
the clarinettist Anthony Pay and with the Arditti Quartet. Collaborating with
contemporary composers, Druvi has given first performances of works by Humphrey
Searle, Roger Reynolds and John Mayer. He has broadcast frequently with his brother
Rohan both for the BBC and for several European radio stations.
teaches at the Junior Academy of the Royal Academy of Music.
Saram in Concert - Vol. 2 (Claudio CB6005-2) will include the Debussy and Strauss