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Bulgarian CDs

Kalin Ivanov (cello)
Samuel BARBER (1910-1981)
Sonata Op.6 or Cello and Piano
Antonio VIVALDI (1678–1741) Sonata No.5 in E minor
Robert SCHUMANN (1810–1856) Fantasiestücke Op.73 for Cello and Piano
Johannes BRAHMS (1833–1897) Sonata No.1 in E minor Op.38 for Cello and Piano
Kalin Ivanov (cello)
Emily White (piano)
Rec. Patrych Sound Studio, New York, 2004
GEGA NEW GD 285 [69:21]



In a world blessed with an abundance of exceptional cellists, it requires a superlative effort for any aspiring artist to make their mark and this is precisely what Bulgarian cellist Kalin Ivanov appears to be setting out to do with this disc.

The somewhat curious choice of repertoire for this CD would certainly be more appropriate for a recital programme: it includes two major sonatas for cello and piano, Samuel Barber’s Sonata Op.6 and Brahms’ Sonata No.1 Op.38, flanking two relatively less significant works by Vivaldi and Schumann.

Barber’s strangely neglected Sonata for cello and piano opens the recital and the duo immediately make their intentions clear, with a full-blooded and direct assault on this quintessentially romantic work. It was composed in 1933 and premiered in New York four days before the composer turned 23!

The impassioned and dramatic character of the music provides the ideal vehicle for both the cellist and his duo partner to demonstrate their prowess. From the lowest register of the cello to the soaring heights, Kalin Ivanov is able to demonstrate real power and clarity of tone, whilst Emily White rises admirably to the most exacting demands of the piano part, especially the massive chordal writing of the Allegro appassionato final movement.

Vivaldi’s Sonata No 5 in E minor follows and although one would nowadays almost certainly expect to hear it performed with a harpsichord and continuo, it receives a frank and sincere performance. The technical demands of the outer movements are negotiated plausibly enough, though one is left yearning for a little more consideration of the inherent dance element. The expressive slow movements are likewise beautifully articulated, but not necessarily with due deference to current stylistic sensitivities.

Schumann’s Fantasiestücke receive a well crafted performance, with impassioned singing lines from Ivanov complemented by the rippling dexterity of Emily White’s piano playing. The duo’s performance is an ultimately successful one, but there nevertheless persists the distinct impression that Schumann’s music is occasionally subordinated to the imperative of showcasing Mr Ivanov’s undeniably gorgeous cello tone.

Brahms’ Sonata in E minor presents the sternest challenge of all, but Ivanov and White are unquestionably at their best in this work. Here they enjoy a much more integrated sense of purpose and the musical outcome is altogether more satisfying.

The first movement begins suitably mysteriously, with the brooding quality which characterises the entire composition pretty unambiguously articulated. The somewhat more optimistic second subject is presented with requisite relief, but the duo soon return to the dark and melancholy qualities of the work and present a powerful and credible performance of this colossal movement.

The playful Allegretto quasi Menuetto second movement, with its Chopinesque middle section, provides tantalising glimpses of something more cheerful, whilst the entirely appropriate sense of struggle in fugal final movement brings the work to a breathless conclusion, without ever undermining the inimitable brooding turbulence.

If I do have a criticism, then it is that the rare moments of over-enthusiasm in the finale of the Brahms regrettably lead to some questionable intonation.

Mr Kalinov is a cellist of admirable expressive capability, from whom I have no doubt we shall hear more in future.

Leon Bosch



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