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Piano Concertos 1 and 2
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La Mer Ticciati







alternatively Crotchet

The Swan classic works for cello and orchestra
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Après un rêve (arr. Chris Hazell) [3:42]
Sicilienne (arr. Chris Hazell) [3:37]
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Chant du ménestrel Op. 71 [4:52]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Vocalise (arr. Chris Hazell) [7:31]
Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936)
Adagio con variazioni [13:16]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Le Cygne* (arr. Chris Hazell) [3:18]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Nocturne† [5:16]
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Klid [7:00]
Yun Joon KIM (b. 1916)
Korean Elegy (arr. Roxanna Panufnik) [4:26]
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Ave Maria [9:50]
Han-Na Chang (cello)
*Aline Brewer (harp)
† Daniel Pailthorpe (flute)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin
rec. 2000, Abbey Road Studios, London
EMI CLASSICS 5570522 [62:52]

Korean-born Chang made her debut with the late Mstislav Rostropovich and the London Symphony Orchestra back in 1995. Since then she has recorded several cello collections, as well as full-length works by Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Haydn and others.
On this disc – its title borrowed from Saint-Saëns’ Le Cygne – Chang presents a selection of ‘cello favourites’, although there are some less familiar pieces as well. And, as is often the way with discs of this nature, there is a nod towards the soloist’s roots - in this case a piece by Yun Joon Kim.
First off are the two Fauré items, both in arrangements by English composer Chris Hazell. Aprés un reve is a melancholy little number that has the soloist firmly at its centre. Chang produces some gorgeous, firm tone in the cello’s middle register and the piece – an emblem of the composer’s despair at a broken engagement – ends in a beautifully sustained mood of quiet stoicism. In Sicilienne, originally written for small orchestra, the cello has a delectable dialogue with the harp (played by Aline Brewer), which does lighten the mood somewhat.
Glazunov’s Chant du ménestrel – the one work on this disc that is played in its original form – calls for rather more exposed virtuoso playing. Chang certainly has the measure of this piece which, it has to be said, is not Glazunov at his most inventive.
Rachmaninov’s wordless Vocalise, presented here in an arrangement by Hazell, gives the soloist ample opportunity to produce a lovely singing line. It is engaging enough, though apt to outstay its welcome. And that really is the risk with collections of ‘plums’ such as this; nearly halfway through and one starts to long for a change of flavour, perhaps something a little more piquant. But then perhaps discs like this are best sampled in small mouthfuls rather than consumed whole.
The Respighi, a taxing set of variations, elicits some energetic playing from Chang. It is not all dry academicism though, with some memorable passages that contain more than a hint of the composer’s more flamboyant orchestral pieces.
Le Cygne, a staple of the cello repertoire, is yet another Hazell arrangement. It sounds elegant enough, though ideally the harp could have been a little more recessed to allow the cello’s long, graceful melody to be heard more easily. As it is a piece that’s been overexposed it really needs something more imaginative than this to make it seem new and fresh again.
That can’t be said of Tchaikovsky’s Nocturne, originally one of six Morceaux for piano. It has the composer’s imprimatur – and it shows. There is an internal tension here that makes for a much more satisfying listening experience. Indeed, it seems at times to have the weight and thrust if a fully fledged concerto, something that also comes through in Dvořák’s Klid. Again this is the composer’s own arrangement and it has some lovely flute playing from Daniel Pailthorpe and a sprightly dance theme to add to its charms. Chang’s solos are sweet toned as always, confident of line and intonation.
The Korean composer Yun Joon Kim is nothing if not prolific, with more than 3,000 works to his name. This Korean Elegy, arranged by Roxanna Panufnik, is signposted as a lament for lost youth. It offers few challenges to a cellist of Chang’s calibre and thankfully makes no attempt at the kind of ersatz Orientalism that often disfigures arrangements of this kind.
The Ave Maria is an altogether more demanding work. Chang’s Bruch has always been highly regarded (she included Kol Nidrei on her debut disc for EMI) and in that sense Chang has left the best ‘til last. The Ave Maria – written in 1892 – is a little-known work with a welcome weight and bite to the cello and orchestral writing.
Familiar repertoire can be a problem, especially in quantity. A string of ‘cello favourites’, while appealing to listeners who like this sort of thing, does not make for enough variety. Nor does it show the soloist’s versatility and range. For that one would need to look to her discs of 20th century masterpieces – the Prokofiev Sinfonia Concertante and, most recently, Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1, both with Antonio Pappano and the LSO.
So, two cheers then for a perfectly likeable but oddly unsatisfying disc. It clocks in at just over an hour; that may seem short measure, but given the unvaried and unvarying repertoire on display it is probably more than enough for even the most dedicated fiddle fans.
Dan Morgan



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