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Virtuoso Cello Encores
Gaspar CASSADÓ (1897 – 1966) Dance of the Green Devil; David POPPER (1843 – 1913) Fantasy on Little Russian Songs; Serenade, Op. 54, No. 2; Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 – 1750) Air from Suite No. 3 in D, BWV 1068 (trans. Leonard Rose); Franz SCHUBERT (1797 – 1828) Ständchen (Serenade)(trans. Henri Marteau); Franz SCHUBERT (1808 – 1878) Die Biene (The Bee) (trans. Werner Thomas-Mifune); Enrique GRANADOS (1867 – 1916) Intermezzo from Goyescas (trans. Gaspar Cassadó); Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906 – 1975) Tarantella from The Gadfly, Op. 97 (trans. Jusas Tschelkauskas); Maurice RAVEL (1875 – 1937) Habanera (trans. Paul Bazelaire); Claude DEBUSSY The Girl with the Flaxen Hair (trans. L.-R. Feuillard); Jean Baptiste SENAILLÉ (1687 – 1730) Allegro spiritoso trans. J. Salmon); Henri VIEUXTEMPS (1820 – 1881) Cantilena, Op. 49, No. 24 (trans. Jénö Hubay); Siegfried BARCHET (1918 – 1982) Boulevard de Garavan; Jacques OFFENBACH (1819 – 1880) Danse bohémienne, Op. 28; Sergey RACHMANINOV (1873 – 1943) Vocalise, Op. 34, No. 14 (trans. Leonard Rose); George GERSHWIN (1898 – 1937) Short Story (trans. Samuel Dushkin)
Maria Kliegel (cello), Raimund Havenith (piano)
Recorded at Tonstudio van Geest, Heidelberg, Germany, from 5th to 7th November, 1990
NAXOS 8.557943 [75:14]

A whole CD with short encores, isn’t that too much of a good thing? Yes, it can be but in this case it isn’t. Its success is down to a clever choice of repertoire.

There are some of the obvious lollipops: Schubert’s Ständchen, Debussy’s The Girl with the Flaxen Hair and Rachmaninov’s Vocalise – but otherwise there is a plethora of unhackneyed material and I would think that even inveterate collectors will raise an eyebrow at the sight of some titles. How many of you knew Jean Baptiste Senaillé? When did you last hear something by Siegfried Barchet? And that other Franz Schubert – the Dresden one – is he more than a name in the reference books?

On paper the list looks enticing, and so it turns out to be in practice, since all the pieces here have something to offer, in some cases with the rider "in their own modest way". The playing is in the top flight which of course is what can be expected from Maria Kliegel. This disc, originally issued on the Marco Polo nearly fifteen years ago, must be among her earliest recordings but since then there has been a steady stream of CDs on Naxos, covering repertoire from Bach to Tavener and Schnittke, solo discs, duo discs, trio discs and recitals with orchestra, all of them receiving accolades from reviewers and selling well. I don’t know how well this particular collection did on the full price Marco Polo label, but at Naxos super-budged price it should immediately be snapped up.

Some of the pieces here are original compositions for cello and piano, others are transcribed by noted cellists who knew how to expose the instrument and the player in a positive light. Gaspar Cassadó, Spaniard, a one-time pupil of Casals, explores the whole register of the instrument in his own Dance of the Green Devil, written no doubt to demonstrate his own dexterity. His arrangement of his compatriot Granados’s Intermezzo from Goyescas is also cleverly done to catch the atmosphere of the original. The opera itself is highly original, being drawn from a suite for piano inspired by 18th century painter Goya.

David Popper, another famous cellist from an earlier generation, also puts heavy technical demands on the player in his Fantasy on Little Russian Songs. The origin of the songs is unknown to me and obviously also to Keith Anderson in his otherwise expert liner notes. This fantasy is actually a quite substantial piece, playing for more than eleven minutes. The Serenade in contrast is less showy but gives Ms Kliegel full scope to let her Stradivarius sing.

In the Naxos catalogue there is a whole Kliegel CD devoted to Popper’s music, "Romantic Cello Showpieces" (8.554657), among them the Requiem for 3 cellos and orchestra mentioned in the booklet.

With Bach’s Air on the G string we are treading well-known paths. Here Kliegel draws long unbroken lines of tone with exquisite gradings of nuance. Masterly! Schubert’s Ständchen also sings of course and once again one is reminded of the similarities between the cello tone and a mellifluous contralto. Here she also duets with herself through perfect double-stops. There is an intensity in the playing in the middle of the piece that tells us that this is indeed a drama – not just another melodic ditty. His namesake, the somewhat younger "Schubert-Dresden" is represented by 77 seconds of Die Biene (The Bee), which buzzes joyfully.

Shostakovich’s Tarantella, originally for orchestra, is one of many examples of the composer’s melodic gift and highly personal inventiveness, elegant and spirited, while Ravel’s and Debussy’s pieces were both originally conceived as piano music and share an atmosphere of subtle restraint. Going back in time to Jean Baptiste Senaillé, a contemporary of Bach and Handel, his little Allegro spiritoso is a nice conversation for cello and piano.

Vieuxtemps was one of the great violin virtuosos of the 19th century, but transcribed by Jenö Hubay, his Cantilena has the cello singing beautifully. Ideal for late night listening, until at c. 2:35 one is brutally woken up by something similar to "Flight of the Bumble-Bee". After this minute-long intermezzo we can lean back again and enjoy the initial dreamy atmosphere with some extra embellishments of the solo part.

In Barchet’s short piece Kliegel lets her bow have a rest and plays a pizzicato duet with the piano. The next piece, the ten-minute-long Danse bohémienne, reminds us that Offenbach at the outset of his career was a cellist and actually wrote quite a lot for his own instrument. The light-hearted character of this music points in the direction of his operettas. In operetta terms there is a real set-piece for the prima donna about halfway through the composition and then it ends with a rousing patter-song to tear the house down.

Rachmaninov’s Vocalise, as Keith Anderson writes, really suits instrumentalists better than singers, who always face the problem with breathing in these long cantilenas – provides the instrumentalist’s legato playing is flawless, which Maria Kliegel’s certainly is. Leonard Rose’s transcription is the standard version for cellists.

As an encore to this collection of encores we cross the Atlantic for the easy-going jazziness of Gershwin’s Short Story, played with the same tongue-in-the-cheek elegance as the rest.

Good sound, good pianist, generous playing-time. If the programme appeals to you – don’t hesitate!

Göran Forsling

 

 



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