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Petits Fours: Cello Quartets by Offenbach, Klengel, Fitzenhagen
Wilhelm FITZENHAGEN (1848 – 1890)

Konzertwaltzer, Ave Maria Op.41; Die Spinnerin Op.59 No.2
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819 – 1880)

Adagio; Scherzo
Georg GOLTERMAN (1824 – 1898)

Deux Morceaux de Salon Op.53: No.2 Nocturne; No.1 Religioso
Julius KLENGEL (1859 – 1933)

Four Pieces Op.3: Lied Ohne Worte; Gavotte; Wiegenlied; Marsch
Two Pieces Op.5: Serenade; Humoreske
Friedrich GRÜTZMACHER (1832 – 1903)

Consecration Hymn Op.65
Guillaume PAQUE (1825 – 1876)

Souvenir de Curis
The Cellists of The London Mozart Players: 1 Sebastian Comberti; 2 Julia Desbruslais; 3 Ben Chappell; 4 Sarah Butcher
Recorded: 23rd to 25th January 2002 at St Silas, London NW5
CELLO CLASSICS CC 1007 [66.32]

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The sound of an ensemble of cellos can be truly mesmerising and it is astonishing that the genre does not enjoy greater popularity.

Is this disc is representative of the repertoire for cello quartet. If so it would appear that it has primarily been distinguished cello virtuosi of the past who have until now been alert to the possibility of four cellos assuming the traditional roles of the two violins, viola and cello of the conventional string quartet instrumentation.

More recently however, many eminent and some more contemporary composers have begun to direct their attention at this genre. They include Villa-Lobos in his Bachianas Brasileiras, Arvo Pärt, Pierre Boulez and Luciano Berio.

The four cellists of The London Mozart Players present a stimulating disc of original compositions for cello quartet. This proves to be as refreshing as it is remarkable, not only for its technical excellence, but above all for its elevating musical joie de vivre.

Sebastian Comberti negotiates the stratospheric and virtuosic demands of the first cello part with venerable assurance and aplomb. The inner parts prove to be as dynamic as they are incisive and the bass line is firm, compelling and sonorous.

The disc begins in suitably extrovert fashion, with Fitzenhagen, who these days is remembered chiefly for his not entirely glorious association with Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations. He is represented here in three compositions: Konzertwaltzer, Ave Maria and Die Spinnerin.

The Konzertwaltzer begins darkly and with menacing intent, until the first of Comberti’s audacious, but expertly executed, ricochets ushers in a truly spirited and compelling dance, which stunningly fulfils every extreme challenge.

Ave Maria opens serenely enough and although one might have wished for it to have been allowed to sing a little more expressively from the outset, it is given a duly affectionate and sumptuous performance.

Die Spinnerin receives an evocative performance, with a well oiled and effortlessly running spinning wheel tastefully underpinning and subtly directing proceedings.

Golterman, another extremely able solo cellist and conductor also enjoyed some popularity as a composer and the artists here positively luxuriate in the sumptuous romanticism of his Deux Morceaux de Salon Op.53, confidently articulating their collective expressive instinct.

Grützmacher, like Fitzenhagen, is remembered more for his tinkering with the works of more celebrated composers; in this instance it is Boccherini, whose Concerto in B flat received extraordinary mutilation. Nevertheless it is still this version of the concerto which remains popular with cellists today. On this disc, we have the opportunity to hear an original composition, and probably Grützmacher’s best known work in the form of his Consecration Hymn.

Guillaume Paque is almost certainly a name with which even cellists might not be familiar. His Souvenir de Curis is just the sort of rarity which Cello Classics have to be congratulated for bring to our attention.

Jacques Offenbach is naturally more often associated with operetta, but it is his exceptional accomplishment as a virtuoso cellist which is too often forgotten. Naturally he composed many a work for solo cello and also for cellos in ensemble.

The more expressive side of Offenbach is evident in his Adagio, but it is his Scherzo which brings the disc to a satisfying conclusion, with a vigorous, agile and full-blooded performance which delights in the abundance of soaring melodies, all of which are despatched with almost gay abandon.

Too often the myriad compositions for cello ensemble merely receive casual performances in informal settings. Cello Classics and the cellists of The London Mozart Players have taken their palpable joy a step further here and provided the connoisseur and music lover with a benchmark recording of some of the classics of the repertoire.

I look forward to hearing their next disc.

Leon Bosch

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