> Lorne Munroe - Principal Cello NY PO[RB]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Principal Cello (1964-1996) NewYork Philharmonic Orchestra

New York Legends Series

Samuel BARBER (1910-81) Cello Sonata (1932) [18.55]
Marcel DICK (1898-1991) Four Elegies and an Epilogue for Solo Cello (1949) [6.56]
Arthur BENJAMIN (1893-1960) Cello Sonatina (1937) [11.01]
John DOWNEY (b. 1927) Lydian Suite for solo cello (1976) [14.50]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1946) Cello Sonata No. 2 (1843) [27.30]
Lorne Munroe (cello)
Jonathan Feldman (piano)
rec 11, 12, 15 Sept 1996, Concordia College, Bronxville, New York
CALA CACD0517 [79.24]


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I hope that this Cala disc has sold well. It deserves to. It was issued in 1998 with eleven others, each taking as its 'axle' the principal of one of the sections of the NYPO. The series offers up 38 world premieres most of which are by native-born citizens of the USA or those who made their lives there. I have not heard the other discs in the series and I wonder how well they have done outside auditorium sales at NYPO concerts.

Munroe has a proud, unshakable tone, noble and bold, recessed and sensitive when called for.

I heard this disc just after hearing Raya Garbousova's pioneering recording of the Barber. Garbousova takes 16.58 against Munroe's 18.55 and I must say that the Barber emerges in a much more sympathetic and emotive light in Munroe's more expansive conception. The work dates from the 1930s at the end of the composer's student period. It deserves to breathe a more romantic oxygen than Garbousova permits it. Munroe has the measure of the work.

The Dick work is sensitive, rounded and tonal and not at all unapproachable. He was principal viola of the Vienna Symphony (1924-7) and the Cleveland (1943-9). He was principal of the music theory department at Cleveland Institute of Music (1948;-73). His Symphony was premiered in 1950. Munroe premiered the present work.

The Benjamin (one of my avocations) swings easily along with a Gallic nonchalance and a touching innocence: listen to the Minuet (track 10) at 0.48 onwards. Munroe's recording is well worth having for its sentimental fancies and because it documents the dedicatee's hand on the tiller. Nothing jazzy here; nor for that matter anything of Jamaica; the Rumba is contemporaneous with the Sonatina. The Sonatina was written for Munroe in 1937 when the cellist was only thirteen. Composer and cellist toured Europe during the late 1930s.

John Downey is the only living composer represented. A pupil of Vittorio Rieti and Rudolph Ganz he studied also with Nadia Boulanger just after the Second World War. His teachers during his seven Parisian years were Honegger, Milhaud and Messiaen. There is an orchestral anthology of Downey works on CALA CACD1003. The Lydian Suite was written for Downey's daughter, Lida. It is in five movements with the longest, surprisingly enough, being the central presto. The composer assures us that the work incorporates modal inflections around the name 'Lida'. The outer Largamente and Allegro speak with unforced eloquence and quickly gain the new listener's sympathy in a way that the inner trio do not.

In this collection the Mendelssohn, which is the single largest work, seems ill at ease. It is played fluently enough though does not register remarkably. Stylistically it grates in this company or it seems to be going through the motions. Played alone and distinct from its companions it is pleasingly done with the laurels going to the harp-like decoration of the Allegretto scherzando. As a work it lacks the ebullient lissom spontaneity of the Octet.

My first impressions before hearing the disc was that I was to be treated to a mixed bag of classical (Mendelssohn), Late Romantic (Barber) and forbidding 'Modern'. In fact the Dick and Downey are not at all hard-going. The Dick is worth hearing and I expect you will want to hear more by him. The Downey may need some persistence though the outer movements are a cinch for anyone.

The thorough notes, which dwell a mite too much on musical technicality, are by the admirable Ates Orga.

Munroe is an eloquent player who reminded me of the young Yo Yo Ma in the Finzi Cello Concerto (a long deleted Lyrita LP) before stardom dawned. I would love to hear Munroe in the Finzi, the Kodaly (both the accompanied and the unaccompanied), the Bax Rhapsody and the John Foulds Cello Sonata. Any one or more of these works would have been preferable to the Mendelssohn.

Will I ever get the opportunity to hear Munroe in other repertoire. I hope so. It would be good to hear him in the Brahms Double Concerto or the Elgar.

Mature and flowing playing distinguish this disc which is at its best in the Barber, Benjamin and Dick works. The NYPO were fortunate indeed during Mr Munroe's tenure.

Rob Barnett

The New York Legends series on CALA

Joseph Alessi (trombone) CACD0508
Jeanne Baxstresser (flute) CACD0512
Glenn Dicterow (violin) CACD0514
Stanley Drucker (clarinet) CACD0509
Judith LeClair (bassoon) CACD0515
Eugene Levinson (double bass) CACD0507
Lorne Munroe (cello) CACD0517
Philip Myers (horn) CACD0513
Cynthia Phelps (viola) CACD0510
Joseph Robinson (oboe) CACD0518
Philip Smith (trumpet) CACD0516
Thomas Stacy (cor anglais) CACD0511

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