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Joaquin NIN-CULMELL (1908-2004)
Cello Concerto, after P. Anselm Viola [21.17]
Suite for solo cello
Joaquin NIN (1879-1949)
Suite Espagnole (1930) [8.48]
Chants d’Espagne (1927) [8.41]
Cuatro Comentarios (1930) [10.44]
Svetlana Tovstukha (cello)
Kazan Philharmonic Orchestra/Melani Mestre (piano and conductor)
rec. Philharmonic Hall, Kazan, March 2001 (Concerto), Studio Albert Moraleda, June 2001 (remainder)
COLUMNA MUSICA 1CM0092 [49.28]

 

 

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.

Jonathan Woolf 

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