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Pablo Casals – Encores and Transcriptions 4.
The Complete Acoustic Recordings 2

Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)

Minuet in C major [3.48]
Cello Concerto No.2 in D major Op.101 [4.43]
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)

Spanish Dance arranged Casals [2.28]
George GOLTERMANN

Concerto in A minor – Cantilena [2.56]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)

Spring Song [2.15]
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1895)

Sonata in A major – Allegro [4.10]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Abendstern Tannhäuser O Star Of Eve [4.28]
Abendstern Tannhäuser O Star Of Eve [4.00]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Abendlied [3.13]
Abendlied [3.44]
Kinderszenen -Träumerei Op.15 [3.23]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Clarinet Quintet in A major K581 – Larghetto [4.19]
Clarinet Quintet in A major K581 – Larghetto [4.29] – 2nd take
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)

Chanson Louis XIII and Pavane [4.13]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

Allegro appassionato [3.10]
The Swan [2.47]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)

Xerxes – Largo [4.07]
Anton RUBINSTEIN (1829-1894)

Melody in F major Op.3 arranged Popper
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Liebesträume No.3 in A flat
LASSEN

Thine Eyes So Blue [2.35]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Suite No.3 in D major – Air [3.42]
Pablo Casals (cello)
with orchestral accompaniment and with Charles Albert Baker (piano) and Walter Golde (piano)
Recorded in New York in 1916 and 1920
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.110986 [77.13]

 

This is almost an exact reprise of Biddulph’s LAB 142 with transfers again by Ward Marston. To those who possess that issue one can note that a second take of the weird Mozart Clarinet Quintet arrangement has been added, that the Chopin/Popper Nocturne in the Biddulph is the only track to be missing in this Naxos but more importantly that Marston has remastered the sides. More of that later.

It’s pretty much "as before" in this series of morceaux, arrangements and bon bons recorded in 1916 and 1920. Casals was past forty when he first recorded and by some way the most famous cellist in the world but the evidence for his earlier years has always been frustratingly bitty, given that he wasn’t entrusted with a full length concerto performance on disc until much later. In the Haydn Minuet we find that the piano is under recorded to the point of near inaudibility but that Casals exploits some cellistic lurches with guttural good humour. His Granados (a personal friend) is idiomatic and rhythmically acute, with those warmly woolly lower strings resonating across the grooves.

He was given a brass bandy accompaniment for the Haydn Concerto movement; quite a familiar tactic of the time but of much more interest is his only recording of Goltermann, a cello standby for his generation though no one now seems to play it. The slow movement is ripe and richly romantic and just up Casals’s tonal and expressive street. There’s a tiny drop out in the Mendelssohn but I always admire the hoarse tone he extracts here to heighten the sentiment, just right. His Boccherini is vibrant and we find that the 1920 Wagner O Star Of Eve remake is slightly more languorous than the earlier 1916 disc.

The Mozart is harried to death to fit under four and a half minutes and is complete with brass and a weedy toned violinist; this is the type of thing that went on in 1916, but at least it made it to disc in some form or other. There’s more surface noise on the second take – the American issued one and it’s slightly slower as well. One admires the elfin lyricism of his Swan and the dignity – not too many portamenti – of his Handel. The 1920 discs are more forwardly recorded and we can hear how well he negotiates the tricky high writing in the Liszt arrangement; shame about the oompah backing for the Bach.

Ward Marston contributes a long note on his remastering priorities; these principally concern noise reduction and speed and the results, he notes, might be controversial. Listening between his work for Biddulph and Naxos one can hear that he retains a relatively high degree of surface noise in the main. In the case of the 1916 Schumann Abendlied for instance there’s greater surface noise in this Naxos transfer but the solo instrument is projected with greater clarity; it’s not as recessive in the balance as the Biddulph was and this is a great advantage, notwithstanding the shellac cackle to which the ear in any case adjusts. So there are cases when the Biddulph retains more surface noise and conversely when the Naxos does but in most instances the inner detail favours Marston’s newer work and his pitching sounds convincing to my ears. At the Naxos price bracket as well one needn’t spend too much time agonising.

Jonathan Woolf

 


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