By Mary Nemet | From the September-October 2021 issue of Strings magazine

In 1880, 17-year-old Richard Strauss began composing his Sonata for cello and piano, Op. 6. However, before it went to print in 1883, he revised the entire piece, notably replacing the original finale with a completely new one. Only the first movement remained unaltered. Strauss dedicated the Sonata to his friend, the formidable cellist Hanuš Wihan, who premiered it in Nuremberg in December 1883.

Richard Strauss: Sonata for cello and piano in F major, Op. 6; G. Henle Verlag

Richard Strauss: Sonata for cello and piano in F major, Op. 6; G. Henle Verlag, $31.95


Of all the works from this period, the Cello Sonata is still the one that is heard most often, and it quickly became one of Strauss’ most frequently performed works. Strauss himself accompanied the sonata on many occasions, to great acclaim. Aside from the Piano Quartet Op. 13 and the Violin Sonata Op. 18, the Cello Sonata Op. 6 numbers among the most mature works of chamber music from Strauss’ early oeurve. The influences of Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Brahms are noticeable, while leaving sufficient space for a very personal tonal language, often with surprising rhythmic and harmonic turns of phrase.

Penned in the traditional three movements—Allegro con brio, Andante ma non troppo, Finale-Allegro vivo—the influence of Mendelssohn is clearly heard.

The teenage composer who would go on to create Til Eulenspiegel and Der Rosenkavalier masterpieces produced a glowing work marked by youthful exuberance, passionate lyrical intensity, and already prodigious compositional skill. The cellist encounters a challenging score extending over the entire range of his instrument while the pianist needs to bravely negotiate the extensive Brahmsian left-hand chords.

Fingered and bowed by cellist Johannes Moser with Michael Korstick adding fingerings to the piano score, Henle has once again produced a meticulous edition.

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