Rachmaninov/Chopin: Sonatas CD review – eloquence and sweeping lyricism

Inon Barnatan & Alisa Weilerstein
The Guardian

Alisa Weilerstein and Inon Barnatan are well paired in this disc of sonatas by composers better known for piano music, both writing for cellists who were their close friends. Rachmaninov’s mammoth Cello Sonata was written in 1901, as was the Piano Concerto No 2. Weilerstein brings to it an expansive, sweeping lyricism, with a surprising amount of tone in reserve for the big moments. Barnaton’s playing is just as eloquent: beautifully light and supple one moment, biting the next, always nuanced, and steering the music surely. The Chopin Sonata, a valedictory work, gets just the right balance of doubt and resolve; the long first movement has a searching quality that really holds the ear. There are also three shorter concert pieces, including a transcription of Chopin’s piano Étude in C sharp minor which, with Weilerstein’s long, singing phrases and juicy slides, sounds as much a song without words as does Rachmaninov’s Vocalise.