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Pablo Casals – Encores and transcriptions: Volume 3
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)

Salut d’amour
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)

Xerxes – Ombra mi fu
Anton RUBINSTEIN (1829-1894)

Melody in F Op.3
Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770)

Concerto in D minor – Adagio
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)

Kol Nidrei Op.47
David POPPER (1843-1913)
Spanish Serenade Op.11
Mazurka in G minor Op.11
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

The Swan

Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)

Après un rêve – arranged Casals
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Träumerei – from Kinderszenen Op.15
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Air from Orchestral Suite No.3 in D major BWV 1068
Suite for solo cello in C major – [4 movements] BWV 1009
Pablo Casals (cello)
With unnamed orchestra and conductor
Charles A Baker (piano)
Recorded in New York, 1915-16
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.110985 [63.14]

Clearly I jumped the gun when I confidently announced in my last review of this Casals series that volume 2 marked the end of the ‘Encores and Transcriptions’ collection from Naxos. Still, the track listing gives us a subsidiary series title; The Complete Acoustic Recordings 1. Casals’ reissues have been somewhat problematic – I recall the Biddulph edition and earlier the Pearl LPs – and it’s true that his is a somewhat difficult discography to get to grips with, there being so many encore pieces and bonbons.

Nevertheless it remains for me to confirm that Ward Marston has utilised clean sounding American Columbias, transferred with presence and a minimum of inevitable shellac crackle. The programme is a typical one, mixing legato pleasers and the occasional piece by Popper to keep cello gymnasts on their mettle. So from his 1915-16 discs we have prime examples of the repertoire; his Elgar, with discreetly glutinous orchestral support, laced with elegant portamenti, and the harp accompanied Handel being amongst the best known. But his Tartini is very expressive in the grand romantic manner, and here is his first recording of Bruch’s Kol Nidrei to bear comparison with the more famous Landon Ronald disc of the 30s. Even something as ubiquitous as The Swan falls to Casals’ mastery of diminuendi and expressive flexibility and the Popper Mazurka is laced with the Catalan’s provocative wit and sheer grace. It’s a shame that Après un rêve, in Casals’ famous arrangement, has so over-recorded a piano accompaniment, which does tend to draw the ear. But compensation comes in the form of four movements from Bach’s Suite in C major. As before in this series the logistics of compilation have meant that Encores and Transcriptions doesn’t really cover it. Three movements were recorded in 1915 and the Gigue came from a session the following year. Casals’ role in propagandising for the suites is of course well known but it’s a notable opportunity to acquaint ourselves with his earliest recordings of Bach, ones that predate the 1930s Columbia sets of the complete suites by fully thirty years or so. The playing is notably advanced stylistically, imbued nevertheless with the same warmth and acumen that vitalised the later discs.

However many more discs there may be left in this series they will serve the catalogue well; Casals is the First Folio of cellists on record.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Patrick Waller

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