Promising on paper
this programme is, to be blunt, somewhat disappointing. Bracketing
together Nin and his son Joaquin Nin-Culmell is an unusual tactic
– most people probably don’t know that the younger Nin was a
composer. The fact that there is little or no consonance between
the works of father and son shouldn’t be unexpected or problematic.
The fact of the matter however is that Nin-Culmell’s two cello
works are not quite what they seem. The Concerto is “after”
the bassoon concerto of the eighteenth century composer and
monk P Anselm Viola, who lived in the monastery at Montserrat.
The adaptation of the bassoon line for cello has been adeptly
done but whilst the music is suitably charming and has a winning
elegance it’s really not especially distinctive and the soloist
comes under intonational strain more often than is strictly
comfortable; this is a live concerto performance.
The solo sonata
is a cryptic, rather repetitious one, broken down into seven
short baroque-sounding movements. There are too many generic
tremolandi and by rote pizzicati passages and a rather unconvincing
schema all round. That said, he is clearly drawing on a modernist
vocabulary, and one that flirts with atonality. Some sections
have the requisite Iberian dance drive but the impression left
is one of diffusion.
Nin the Father is
represented by his zestful cello and piano pieces. These have
passed down from the ground staked out by Albéniz and Granados
and are vibrant examples of the genre. The third set for cello
and piano, Cuatro Comentarios, is rather different springing
as it does from baroque source material as well as the Iberian.
The Suite espagnole of 1930 is indestructible
but it could go with rather more colour and vivacity than it
receives here. Andaluza sounds rather pallid – a similar
criticism could be levelled at the pedestrian moments in the
slightly earlier cycle Chants d’Espagne. When Svetlana
Tovstukha plays a warm legato line things are well but her trill
is slow and her rhythm lacks incision. Melani Mestre takes on
the dual responsibilities of conductor and piano accompanist
very reasonably indeed.
Sound quality is
not a problem and the live concerto performance doesn’t suffer
in that respect. The notes are not especially helpful and lack
specifics. Rather a hit and miss affair all round.