Zemlinsky Cello Sonata – The Story

Since the beginning of the revival of interest in Zemlinsky, back in the 1970s, it was known that in his early twenties he had composed a Cello Sonata, performed at the Wiener Tonkünstlerverein in April 1894, which had subsequently disappeared. It was still missing when Antony Beaumont’s authoritative study of the composer was published in 2000. The piece, being contemporary with Zemlinsky’s first opera Sarema (which Koch recorded about ten years ago) and the String Quintet (itself now partially lost) which won him the attention and patronage of Brahms, was likely to have heen of considerable interest, and its absence was a matter for regret

The Sonata’s first performer and dedicatee was Friedrich Buxbaum, famous as the cellist of the Rosé Quartet and as principal cellist of the Vienna Hofoper under Mahler and his successors. It now emerges that the manuscript of the sonata remained with Buxbaum’s family, who gave a photocopy of it to the well-known musician and humorist Fritz Spiegl, who 20 years ago had given this in turn to the pianist Peter Wallfisch, father of Raphael Wallfisch. As the photocopy was very difficult to read, there the matter rested until recently, when Beaumont was able to decipher it and also consult the original, now in North Wales

Along with the original MS he discovered another, and previouslv unknown Zemlinsky work for cello and piano, the Three Pieces dating from the summer of 1891. These new accessions to the Zemlinsky catalogue, now given their world premiere recordings, provide the basis for this most welcome disc, coupled with music by an elder Viennese contemporary (Goldmark) and Zemlinsky’s second most famous pupil (Korngold)…

…. It seems almost superfluous to comment on the performances. Raphael Wallfisch and John York are among our best cello-duo teams: their names are a guarantee of excellence. They play this repertoire with complete authority, understanding and great expressive warmth, setting a standard in the new Zemlinsky items that subsequent performers will not match with ease.

Calum McDonald – International Record Review

… The performances are all quite splendid.

Duncan Druce – Gramophone