Moderato for Cello and Piano, sans opus (1930s)
mp3 download: Lynn Harrell (cello), Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano) (Decca 475 7425)
The Moderato for Cello and Piano, composed sometime in the 1930s and discovered alongside the cello sonata’s manuscript in the 1980s, is probably destined to remain an obscure footnote to that larger work. The two-and-a-half-minute Moderato shares the lyricism of the sonata’s first movement: The cello part often sounds like a wordless aria with piano accompaniment, not unlike Katerina’s emotional outpourings in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk — my impression is certainly colored by the cello’s quoting of her fourth-act aria in Shostakovich’s eighth string quartet — although the Moderato also veers into salon-music sentimentality as well.
The melodies fail to make an impression and it ends up as a forgettable piece, not surprising for material untouched for decades by a composer who never let a promising musical idea lie unused in obscurity if he could help it.