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Andante Cantabile – Cello Encores
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845–1924) Après un rêve (arr. Milton Katims) [3:05]
Maria Theresia von PARADIS (1759–1824) Sicilienne (arranged for violin by S. Dushkin, transcribed for cello by Lynn Harrell) [2:49]
Gabriel FAURÉ Sicilienne Op. 78 [3:26]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862–1918) Beau soir (transc. Alexander Gretchaninoff) [2:30]
Maurice RAVEL (1875–1937) Pièce en forme de habanera [2:55]
Henri DUPARC (1848–1933) Phidylé [5:36]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835–1921) The Swan (Carnival of the Animals) (ed. Leonard Rose) [2:28]
Manuel de FALLA (1876–1946) Nana (Suite populaire Espagnole) [2:14]
Aleksandr GLAZUNOV (1865–1936) Spanish Serenade [2:52]
Enrique GRANADOS (1867–1916) Intermezzo (Goyescas) [4:01]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797–1828) Moment musical in F minor, D 780 No 3 (arr. L. Schulz) [1:55]; An die Musik D 547 [2:34]; Nacht und Träume D 827 [4:17]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810–1856) Träumerei (Kinderszenen, Op. 15) [2:49]
George Frederic HANDEL (1685–1759) Where’er you walk (Semele) [4:13]
Arthur SULLIVAN (1842–1900) An Idyll [3:01]
Edward ELGAR (1857–1934) Salut d’amour, Op. 12 [3:02]
Paul-Joseph-Guillaume HILLEMACHER (1852–1933) Gavotte tendre [3:25]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810–1849) Nocturne in C sharp minor, op. posth. (transc. Piatigorsky) [4:05]
Alfredo CATALANI (1854–1893) Ebben? … Ne andrò lontana (La Wally) (arr. Vladimir Cosma) [3:02]
Rentaro TAKI (1879–1903) Kojo no tsuki (The Moon on the Ruined Castle) [1:12]
Ernest BLOCH (1880–1959) Prayer (From Jewish Life – No. 1) [4:31]
Lynn Harrell (cello)
Bruno Canino (piano)
rec. St. Barnabas, North Finchley, London, UK, June 1988
DECCA ELOQUENCE 476 7487 [70:45]
 


The Andante Cantabile of the title, meaning “singable andante”, tells us that this is yet another collection of down-tempo melodic pieces – and so it is. However the singing aspect is more prominent than usual, not only because Lynn Harrell’s cello sings more meltingly than most but also since several of the pieces are vocal numbers from the beginning. The effect is also no doubt due to  Harrell’s longstanding and deep relationship with the human voice. In the first place his father Mack Harrell (1909–1960) was one of the leading American baritone singers of his day. Through him Lynn naturally got an interest in singing that made him an almost fanatical listener to the great singers on record. “I realise, to my surprise”, he writes in his very personable liner notes, “how many of the … musical memories I have in my ear are of singers.” And even if he hasn’t consciously striven to adapt the characteristics of the human voice to his own playing it has no doubt influenced him.
 
We find in this collection some of the obvious cello encores but also quite a few that we probably didn’t expect – and there are even some real rarities. As so often with collections of this kind it is best enjoyed a few pieces at a time, unless you play it as wall paper, but that would be a pity with so much exquisite musicianship at work. And when I, as reviewers regularly do against their better judgement, played the whole recital through at one sitting I never had that creeping feeling of long-windedness and monotony, but sings the cello most certainly does. One of the most well-known of all the pieces, von Paradis’s Sicilienne, (tr. 2) demonstrates all the qualities of Harrell’s playing: the mellifluous tone, the delicate shadings, a perfect trill, the seamless legato and real affection for the music. The pianist, naturally in a programme like this, mostly plays a secondary role but there are also pieces where the two musicians are on more equal terms. This is certainly the case in Fauré’s Sicilienne which is uncommonly swift, and Ravel’s Pièce en forme de habanera. Bruno Canino never disappoints.
 
A look at some of the individual numbers tells us that Saint-Saëns’ immortal swan swims as it were only half visible in a kind of subtly misty dreamscape. I get a feeling that Harrell sometimes plays the music entirely to himself, for his own pleasure and we are privileged to be eavesdropping through a half-open door. This is one of those instances. But Glazunov’s Spanish Serenade is fiery, though even here he scales down to something more intimate, until Canino reminds him that this is sunny Spain, so some stomping of feet and the odd castanet is not out of order. More Iberian flavours Spain come in the shape of the Intermezzo from Granados’s Goyescas, an opera that is based on the piano suite which in its turn was inspired by Goya’s paintings. This Intermezzo is a piece I learnt to like ages ago through an EP with Karajan and the Philharmonia. Here Canino’s walking bass lays the foundations for Harrell’s intensely singing cello. It’s a lovely piece, also in this arrangement – by whom we are not told which leads me to think that Harrell modestly avoids to mention that it is his own work.
 
Schubert’s F minor Moment musical also seems tailor-made for the cello. It seems that whenever I have heard this music on the piano I have imagined the legato of a stringed instrument behind the percussive piano sounds.
 
In his notes Harrell mentions Elisabeth Schumann’s recordings of Schubert songs as major listening experiences. They “revealed to me a world of stylised delicacy”, he says, something he recreates in An die Musik and Nacht und Träume. Not even Schumann could spin such long unbroken phrases.
 
Where’er you walk evokes memories of McCormack’s recording with those characteristic soft Irish consonants. The tenor voice, in particular McCormack’s, and the cello are like second cousins, and that’s possibly the reason why McCormack and Kreisler’s violin blended so well.
 
I don’t think I had ever noticed the name Hillemacher until a couple of weeks ago when I reviewed John Mark Ainsley’s new disc with French melodies L’invitation au voyage (see review). There were a handful of songs by Paul Lucien Hillemacher, which was a composite name for two brothers who worked together. The eldest of them, whose full name was Paul-Joseph-Guillaume also published music on his own and the Gavotte tendre was one of them. It has been recorded by several cellists, Pablo Casals among them in the late 1920s, when the composer was still alive. It annoys me that I had never made a mental note of it.
 
Catalani’s well-known aria from La Wally also lends itself well to Harrell’s singing cello. The opera itself, premiered in Milan in 1892 is rarely heard today but Toscanini held it in high esteem, so much so that he named his daughter, who later married Horowitz, after the heroine. This aria is what has survived.
 
A banquet was held in the splendid castle in the season of the cherry blossom.
Where is the light now, that shadowed the glasses and flew through the old pines?


Thus reads, in an approximate English translation, the first stanza of Bansui Doi’s (1871 – 1952) poem that is the basis for Rentato Taki’s Kojo no tsuki. Taki was born in Tokyo and studied at the Tokyo Music School, where this song also was published in Songs for High School Students in 1901. He went to Europe for further studies in Leipzig but fell ill after just three or four months and returned to Japan where he died on 29 June 1903, not yet 24 years old. The music has a certain Asian flavour and makes a nice contrast with the rest of the programme, which has a solemn “encore” to this collection of encores in Bloch’s Prayer. Harrell and Canino lavish all their skill and commitment on this music that should be heard more frequently.
 
Readers who have followed me this far probably need very little acumen to realise that I have enjoyed this disc enormously. “Light music” it may be, but light music is not synonymous with cheap music and performed with such musicality and conviction even the most hackneyed of pieces are shown in a new light.
 
Göran Forsling
 

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