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Masterful Rendering of Fauré’s Two Sonatas by Cellist Ben-Sasson

Gabriel Fauré: Music for Cello and Piano, Ina-Esther Joost Ben-Sasson, cello; Allan Sternfield, piano (Naxos)

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Born in Germany, Ina-Esther Joost Ben-Sasson is one of Israel’s leading cellists. Ten Israeli composers have dedicated solo works to her; she is principal cellist and frequent soloist of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. Prizewinner in many competitions, she has concertized internationally and released numerous recordings. Allan Sternfield, born and trained in the United States, has performed and participated in festivals worldwide, and was twice awarded the Prize for Outstanding Performance of Israeli Music. He is a faculty member and chairman of the keyboard department at Jerusalem’s Academy of Music.

The two players are masterful, but use their technique and tonal palette only for musical ends, never for show. The cellist’s tone is warm, pure, and variable in all registers, and the pianist has at his disposal an enormous diversity of touch, color, and nuance. Their ensemble is close and unanimous—even the balance is exemplary. Completely attuned to each other, they weave a seamless tapestry of lines, phrases, and nuances. Their playing is very expressive, but direct and unaffected, without fuss or exaggeration.

The program features Fauré’s two sonatas. Somber and elusive, the music breaks through the shadows in passionate climaxes. The short pieces include several transcriptions that sound no less idiomatic than those originally for cello. Most are slow and dreamy, often pensive and melancholy; this creates a certain sameness which the players counteract by bringing out the contrasting moods and colors. The lively “Papillon” offers them a chance to show their virtuosity.

*This article appeared in Strings July 2010
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