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Virtuoso Cello Showpieces
Buxton ORR (1924–1997)
A Carmen Fantasy (1985) [14:13]
Franz DANZI (1763–1826)
Variations on a Theme from Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ (ed. Heinrich Klug) [6:54]
Figaro Variations from Rossini’s ‘The Barber of Seville’ (concert transcription, ed. Gregor Piatigorsky) [6:40]
Caspar CASSADÓ (1897–1966)
Lamento de Boabdil (1931) [3:58]
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841–1904)
Rondo in G minor, B171 (Op. 94) (1891) [8:03]
Silent Woods (Klid), B173 (Op. 68 No. 5) (1891) [5:14]
Sonatina in G major, B183 (Op. 100) (1893) (arr. Oscar Hartwieg) [20:48]
Maria Kliegel (cello)
Nina Tichman (piano)
rec. Clara Wieck Auditorium, Sandhausen, Germany, 1-3 December 2004
NAXOS 8.557613 [65:51]

Virtuosity is often associated with technical brilliance. Here we are in the realms of playing as many demisemiquavers as possible within a certain time-span, alternatively indulging in double-stops, big leaps, flageolets and other showy things. In my book virtuosity is also something deeper: how to turn a phrase memorably, how to spin a lovely pianissimo, in short how to expose the musical material in the best possible light. These thoughts struck me when I listened to the Carmen Fantasy on this disc. After the dark ‘Fate’ motif that opens the composition and returns at the end, a great deal of the music is soft, slow; most of the time the soloist explores the low and middle register of the instrument. It has often been said that no instrument sings more than the cello. Indeed this is what the player is asked to do in an inward and beautifully nuanced Flower Song. Then, towards the end, there is a lot of showing off, as must be the case in an encore piece like this. Not even the loveliest pianissimo brings down the house as fireworks do. This fantasy was written in 1985 for Robert Cohen to serve as a companion piece to Franz Waxman’s famous one for violin.

Operatic material is also the basis for the next two pieces. Franz Danzi, who originally wrote his variations for cello and orchestra, chose the Don Giovanni – Zerlina duet La ci darem la mano as his theme. The result is entertaining and well-wrought. Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco utilized Figaro’s Largo al factotum for his composition, dedicated to the great Piatigorsky. He twists and turns the material almost inside out and spices it with quite stunning harmonies. Certainly this is the boldest piece in the programme and possibly also the toughest nut for the players.

Gaspar Cassadó was a legendary Spanish cellist who, among many other things, also had a trio together with pianist Louis Kentner and violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Lamento de Boabdil was composed in 1931 and dedicated to his great predecessor Pablo Casals. Boabdil was the name by which the Spanish knew the last Moorish ruler of Granada, Muhammed XII. He replaced his father in 1482 but ten years later Granada fell to the Catholic Kings. The lament is said to reflect Boabdil’s sorrow when he saw his conquered city. It is melancholy and soft.

The rest of the disc is devoted to Antonín Dvořák, whose melodic sweetness is so well suited to the cello. A colleague to Dvořák on the teaching staff of Prague Conservatory was the cellist Hanuš Wihan, the dedicatee of Dvořak’s cello concerto. It was also for him that the composer intended the Rondo in G minor, which was played in its original version – the one Maria Kliegel plays here – by Wihan at a concert in March 1892. On the same occasion he played Silent Woods, originally for piano duet. Both works were later arranged for cello and orchestra.

The Sonatina in G major Op. 100, composed in America in November 1893, is better known in the version for violin and piano but Oscar Hartwieg’s arrangement for cello works excellently. It also exists in a version for flute and piano by James Galway. The American background is very obvious. The first movement opens with a direct quotation of the popular song Clementine and there are other references as well. The second movement has a theme that Dvořák came across when he visited the Minnehaha Falls and is supposed to have Indian origins. There are echoes also of both the New World Symphony and the American Quartet, once known as the “Nigger” quartet.

Maria Kliegel is reportedly the most recorded cellist on CD. She keeps the usual high standards of playing here. I have praised her in several reviews on MusicWeb before and I see no reason to do otherwise this time. Moreover she has a very sensitive piano partner in Nina Tichman, who has a prosperous career as solo pianist but works extensively with Maria Kliegel. They have recorded Beethoven’s cello sonatas and since 2001, together with violinist Ida Bieler also collaborate as the Xyrion Trio, which is in the process of recording the complete Beethoven trios.

The recorded sound appeared slightly “swimmy” on my equipment but not to such a degree that it will spoil the listening pleasure. Keith Anderson’s notes on the music are informative. That said, he muddles things up a bit concerning the Rondo and Silent Woods. The opus numbers are of little help, sometimes totally misleading for the chronology of Dvořák’s works; Burghauser’s catalogue (the B-numbers in the heading) is a more reliable source.

Göran Forsling



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