Brahms’ two Cello Sonatas are the undoubted highlights of the Romantic cello repertoire. The Adagio of the F major Sonata has to be one of the most affecting movements in the entire repertoire. This is Brahms at the height of his powers and he was composing for the best musicians in Europe. The E minor Sonata took him three years to write, which shows in its strangely proportioned three movement structure – a very large, passionate first movement, a dancing minuet-like Scherzo enfolding a delicious Trio glistening with a romantic hesitancy, concluding with a dramatic Bach-like fugal Finale. The Four Serious Songs was the last work he published, completed on his last birthday, a setting of three grim Biblical texts but concluding with St Paul’s words on love. We hear it here with cello replacing the bass.
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