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Igor STRAVINSKY (1882 – 1972)
Suite Italienne (1932/1933) [18:26] Claude DEBUSSY (1862 – 1918)
Cello Sonata in D minor (1915) [11:45] Johannes BRAHMS (1833 – 1897)
Cello Sonata No.2 in F, op.99 (1886) [28:14] Ennio MORRICONE (b
Oboe (The Mission) (1986) [3:22]
Suzanne Beer (cello); Gareth Hancock (piano)
rec. details not given. DDD DIVINE ART DDA25068
Art were devastated to hear of the untimely passing of cellist
Susanne Beer in December 2019 after a battle with melanoma cancer
at the age of 52.
Cello Corner Foundation has been established in memory of
cellist Susanne Beer, which is to support young musicians. Divine
Art will be making a donation to the Foundation for every copy
bought via their web store of the album Susanne made for the label:
her debut solo album Cello Diverse. Purchase
was written in Feb 2009. Bob Briggs is also no longer with
us and hugely missed.
This disk contains some of the finest, and strongest, most
purposeful, cello playing I’ve heard in a long time. Indeed,
so forthright is the playing, and so intense her interpretations,
that I was immediately reminded of the young Jacqueline du
Pré. Ms Beer can stand that somewhat extravagant comment for
she proves it with every note she plays.
I’ve always regarded Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne as
a piece of his neo–baroque nonsense and not really worthy
of my attention. I must now reconsider my position for here
it turns up fresh and alive, the notes jumping off the page
in every bar in this spry and very vivacious account. The
Introduction and Finale provide fine examples
of Ms Beer’s strong bowing arm, while the Serenata
is as cool as a mountain stream. The Aria is one long
melody from beginning to end and Ms Beer lavishes all her
romantic attention on it only to dispel the mood of love with
a sparkling Tarantella.
Debussy’s Sonata is one of the joys of the cello repertoire;
it’s elusive and magical and a towering masterpiece of the
genre. Debussy originally wanted to call the piece Pierrot
fait fou avec la lune (Pierrot angry with the moon)
and there’s a lot of railing in the work – albeit tempered
by the writing for the instruments and the material used.
Listen to the way Ms Beer phrases the opening fanfare idea
at 2:15 after emerging from a short passage of accompaniment
to the piano; absolutely well placed and as exciting as anything
on this disk. The pizzicato scherzo is hesitant and
mysterious, while the finale romps along in good humour. This
Pierrot certainly isn’t angry with the moon, he is truly reveling
in the moonlight!
Brahms’s Second Sonata immediately follows the Fourth
Symphony and is built in the same mould, in blocks of
granite but with a melodic heart of gold. Beer’s treatment
of the work is both bold and delicately lyrical – just listen
to how she phrases the trio of the third movement Scherzo,
and how she is happy to take a step backwards and allow the
piano to take the lead. And marvel at their handling of the
scherzo section itself, it’s very modern in its approach but
also very Brahmsian. This is superb stuff and thrilling music
making. The slow movement is very well paced, the lyricism
soaring from Beer’s cello, full bowed and full of the singing
quality which is unique to the instrument, whilst her pizzicato
accompaniment to the piano is beautifully discreet and well
placed. The finale has a lovely easy going feel to it and
the tempo is perfect for it allows the music to speak clearly.
This is a fine performance.
Morricone’s Gabriel’s Oboe, from his soundtrack score
for The Mission, is a delightful encore piece, unpretentious
and charming, and a real pleasure after the hothouse music
making which precedes it.
The recording is bright and clear with a very good balance
between the instruments. It was a real pleasure to report
on this disk for everything about it – performance, recording
etc – commands our attention. Suzanne Beer is a fine artist
and we should hear much more of her.
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