Over Under. © 2023 Luke Severn and Evan Fein


A Fine Recording

GEOFF PEARCE listens to cello sonatas by Evan Fein and Johannes Brahms

'... I particularly enjoyed the new sonata by Evan Fein.'


This fine recording features a collaboration between two fine artists - Australian composer, conductor and cellist Luke Severn and American composer and pianist Evan Fein - and contains two sonatas. It is a great recording with concise programme notes and very good sound quality.

Evan Fein's Sonata for Cello and Piano No 2, Op 28 (2020) is a substantial and quite tonal work. I think that listeners will readily enjoy this well-crafted composition.

The first movement is serene and warm, as the title suggests. There are contrasting moments where the nature is more playful, but in character, it reminds me of a warm sunny day. There is a nice little flourish at the end. Both performers are very competent musicians who do this work justice. This is one collaboration that has worked very well.

Listen — Evan Fein: Serene, warm (Cello Sonata No 2)
(MCD 611 track 1, 8:28-9:18) ℗ 2023 Move Records :

The second movement, 'Redemptive, resonant', is exactly that. The composer actually describes it as being a 'sombre and defiant adagio', but I find it more reflective than defiant. Tension and relaxation are well controlled, and any moments of defiance appear in the middle of the movement.

Listen — Evan Fein: Redemptive, resonant (Cello Sonata No 2)
(MCD 611 track 2, 4:49-5:38) ℗ 2023 Move Records :

The third movement, 'Molto, scherzando', is a short playful movement with delightful interchange between the two instruments.

Listen — Evan Fein: Molto, scherzando (Cello Sonata No 2)
(MCD 611 track 3, 1:10-1:59) ℗ 2023 Move Records :

The final movement, 'Lively, playful', is a rondo and revisits themes from the previous movements before its galloping final moments.

Listen — Evan Fein: Lively, playful (Cello Sonata No 2)
(MCD 611 track 4, 6:30-7:14) ℗ 2023 Move Records :

The second work, Johannes Brahms' Sonata No 1 for Cello and Piano, Opus 38 (1862-65), is a suitable pairing for the Fein.

The long first movement contains much of the warmth of the first movement of the Fein sonata, but is much more emotionally complex, and there are moments of passionate broodiness. I find, in spite of the warmth and passionate outbursts, that there is also sadness and melancholy here, even though it never overwhelms.

Listen — Brahms: Allegro non troppo (Cello Sonata No 1)
(MCD 611 track 5, 6:47-7:31) ℗ 2023 Move Records :

The second movement is a rather quirky and delightful dance, overly playful in nature, but also tinged with a wistfulness. The middle section is somewhat hesitant and full of questions, resolved by the repeat of the opening section.

Listen — Brahms: Allegretto quasi Menuetto (Cello Sonata No 1)
(MCD 611 track 6, 1:41-2:23) ℗ 2023 Move Records :

The final movement with its fugal opening and contrasting scherzo-like section are where both performers can really let their hair down. They start off in a less exuberant fashion than many recordings I have heard, but unleash when they feel the music needs it.

Listen — Brahms: Allegro (Cello Sonata No 1)
(MCD 611 track 7, 6:15-6:59) ℗ 2023 Move Records :

I think this is a fine recording, and I particularly enjoyed the new sonata by Evan Fein. I found the Brahms a little too restrained for my liking, and there are other recordings (such as that by Barenboim and du Pré) I would listen to for that work. This is not to take anything away from this new recording - just that my vision of the Brahms differs - and the pairing of the two sonatas is effective.

Copyright © 15 October 2023 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia



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