Instrumentalist - Cello
Gary Hoffman: MENDELSSOHN Cello Sonatas Nos. 1 in Bb; 2 in D... on LA DOLCE VOLTA

A review is usually short for one of two reasons: Either a recording is so poor that it does not merit attention, or else it is so good that extended discussion of particulars is superfluous. Here, thankfully, we have the second situation, as this splendid disc goes right to the very top of recommended recordings of Mendelssohn’s works for cello. Its closest competitor is the recent Orfeo recording with Daniel Müller-Schott and Jonathan Gilad, endorsed in 34:4 by Burton Rothleder (who has reviewed several other recordings of these works in these pages as well). Since Müller-Schott is probably my single favorite living cellist, it’s a stretch on my part to say that Gary Hoffman equals or even slightly surpasses him here, but he does. His tone is a shade lighter, which I find perfectly suited to this extroverted, quicksilver music; his bowing technique and intonation are immaculate. Selig is an ideal partner, with a clean, light, fluent keyboard touch and judiciously light use of the pedal. As much or more important is the degree to which both Hoffman and Selig, who have played together for some 25 years now, completely indwell this music, as if they had written it themselves. Unlike so many other performances, they do not err in making Mendelssohn either precious or pseudo-profound. The opening theme of the Variations concertantes is songful but not cloying; the Molto allegro e vivace finale of the Bb-Sonata is not turned into a manically frenzied dash to the finish line. Everything flows with astonishing seamlessness and naturalness; this is musicianship not just to admire, but also to treasure.

The La Dolce Volta label is distributed by Harmonia Mundi. Somewhat unusually, the disc contents are listed only in French, and the booklet notes (which include an interview with Hofmann and Selig) are provided in English, French, Spanish, and Japanese instead of the usual English, French, and German. There are also numerous photos of the two artists and a brief paragraph on the art of the photographer, Bernard Martinez. The recorded sound is bright and up close, perhaps a bit closer to Hofmann than would be ideal, but not to a degree that is distracting. This disc is a contender for my 2013 Want List, and every lover of Mendelssohn and cello music should seek it out without delay; enthusiastically recommended.

James A. Altena, Fanfare
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