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Decca Phase 4
The Swan – classic works for cello and orchestra
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Après un rêve (arr. Chris
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
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Yun Joon KIM (b.
Korean Elegy (arr. Roxanna Panufnik) [4:26]
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Ave Maria [9:50]
*Aline Brewer (harp)
Daniel Pailthorpe (flute)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin
rec. 2000, Abbey Road Studios, London
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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