Swedish-Czech cellist Mikael Ericsson has impeccable credentials with the Vlach Quartet, and a technique, tone and expressiveness to match. This disc showcases his talent as a soloist, and at the same time gives a taster of some of his own compositions for cello. All works are first recordings.
The recital opens with Monologue no.17 by Swedish composer Erland von Koch, a set of variations in two parts - a simple but beautiful Andante Semplice followed by an Allegro Vivace steeped in the folk rhythms and melodies of his homeland. During the 1970s Koch wrote a series of 18 Monologues altogether, each one for a different solo instrument.
The Hukvaldy Fantasy by Miroslav Petrá opens with the glorious sounds of the first bars of Janáček's Sinfonietta, the first of numerous quotations of the latter's music in this marvellous Hommage to the great composer.
Jan Carlstedt's Ballad op.18 is a bewitching, inward-looking work, full of rich sonorities and cadenza-like passages in a very attractive neo-Romantic style.
The Rhapsody op.6 by Ondrej Kukal is reminiscent of Shostakovich - in fact it sounds remarkably like the cello part of a lost movement of Shostakovich's Eighth String Quartet. A passionate, lovely piece.
The second half of this disc is devoted to Ericsson wearing two hats, as performer and composer. His music is straightforward and 'traditional', but extremely melodic and instantly memorable. 'Dobrú Noc' - Concert Variations is a lengthy, virtuosic work based on a Moravian (or possibly Slovakian) folk tune, and is dedicated to 19th century Italian cellist Alfredo Piatti. The haunting melodies in this radiant piece are destined to dwell forever in the minds of all who hear them!
The CD ends with the equivalent of four recital encores. Tango 'Taserud' and Tango 'Buenas Noches' are again by Ericsson, albeit in more modest mode. Though close to Argentina or Astor Piazzolla in spirit, geographically these tangos could not be more distant: Taserud is an area of Sweden from which Ericsson originates, and the Spanish 'Buenas Noches' turns out to be a red herring, as this is a tango based on the folksong 'Dobrú Noc' ('Goodnight'), as starring in the Concert Variations. Ack, Värmeland, du Sköna ('O, Fairest Värmeland') is a 19th century Swedish song based on a folk tune, well known to jazz musicians in particular, and apocryphally said to have inspired Smetana's Vltava. Finally, Relax is a witty, foot-tapping piece with, to quote Ericsson, "no significant compositional ambitions" for cello and metronome!
The sound quality on this disc is excellent, the acoustics of the Prague church where the recording took place giving just the right amount of resonance. In sum, this is a superb CD that no one who appreciates well-crafted, melodious music could fail to cherish.