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Laurel Records



Ernest BLOCH (1880-1959)
Cello Music
Meditation Hébraïque for cello and piano (1924) [6:44]
From Jewish Life for cello and piano (Prayer, Supplication, Jewish Dance) (1924) [10:17]
Suite No. 1 for Solo Cello (1956-7) [14:26]
Suite No. 2 for Solo Cello (1956-7) [22:18]
Suite No. 3 for Solo Cello (1956-7) [14:21]
Parry Karp (cello)
Francis Karp (piano)
rec. Gilbert Recording Studio, Los Angeles, CA, 5 January 1990 (suites); 15 August 1992. ADD
LAUREL LR-865CD [68:19]

Bloch took to his adopted homeland with enthusiasm and it embraced the composer in turn. I have already written about the Rhapsody - America in a recording on Naxos. Another part of the North American response has come from the generosity of John C. Gilbert Ph.D., his father Herschel Burke Gilbert and their California-based Laurel Records label. Laurel have recorded all the string quartets and much else including the still rarely encountered Concerto Symphonique and the Violin Concerto. This disc is the latest volume to appear.

The Méditation Hébraïque was written as homage to Casals as a ‘thank you’ for Casals’ performances of the Bach suites which Bloch loved. It is typically soulful, with an exotic strain and a brief and jaggedly defiant piano fanfare similar in shape to the brassy fanfares in the Violin Concerto. The three episodes From Jewish Life are Prayer, Supplication and Jewish Dance. Prayer pleads eloquently. Supplication runs forward eagerly yet deferentially modest. The last movement is a rather stiff-legged dance which, like Prayer, makes use of quarter-tones to add an exotic oriental edge.

After these two pieces for cello and piano we turn to three suites for unaccompanied cello. These were written in quick succession in the composer’s final years. Suites 1 and 2 were written for Zara Nelsova at her urging. Nelsova recently enjoyed a Decca Collectors’ Edition. She premiered Bloch’s Voice in the Wilderness for cello and orchestra. As you can see from the timing, the suites are compact. When you hear them you will realise that they are succinct in expression. Approaching death clearly concentrated the message. In Suite No. 1 there is a gloomy or soulful Prelude, a flight Bachian Allegro, a concentrated Canzona played high in the register and sounding almost like a viola and finally an optimistic Allegro which is thunderous in its triumph. The Second Suite is the longest of the three. A serious Prelude is followed by a dramatic and determined rosiny Allegro, a rounded Andante tranquillo and at last an angular Allegro lit up with struggle and conflict. It ends with an optimistic ascending gesture that slips slowly into niente. The final Cello Suite has a grippingly heroic Allegro deciso, a meditative Andante, a strugglingly energetic Allegro, another Andante – this time more sorrowful than meditative and then a finale marked Allegro giocoso but which rings out here as more eroico serioso than giocoso.

The recording which was proudly made on analogue tape is gripping and of almost forbidding immediacy and impact.

The useful notes are by John Erling.

These performances are uniformly magnificent with Parry Karp giving every sign of having learnt and known these suites from the inside. The playing of Frances Reiche Karp in the first two pieces projects equal commitment and communicative passion.

Rob Barnett


Laurel Records




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