Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Sonata for Cello and Piano [22:52]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Sonata for Cello and Piano [11:24]
Jacqueline FONTYN (b.1930)
Six Climats [11:21]
Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992)
Louange à l'Éternité de Jésus from Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps [8:47]
Sonata for Cello and Piano [11:06]
Rehearsal of the Poulenc Sonata for Cello and Piano [4:53]
Jan Pas (cello)
Stefano Vismara (piano)
rec. September 2008, Concertstudio, Muziekcentrum Kortrijk, Belgium
Picture format: 16:9/PAL
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0
Region: 0 (worldwide)
EVIL PENGUIN RECORDS EPRC 009 [54:24+40:11]
I don’t know about you, but I often find my eyes quickly glazing over when it comes to the ‘artist biographies’ tucked away in concert programmes and CD liners. They’re usually little more than potted CVs, consisting of lists of past engagements and prizes (singers are the worst offenders) that aren’t designed to be read by the likes of you and me. Thankfully, Evil Penguin Records have found the solution.
Climate Changes is a CD and DVD set from cellist Jan Pas, and Pas and his record company score big points with their 24 minute documentary introducing the cellist. We see Pas at the opera - he is principal cellist with Staatsoper Stuttgart and a Bayreuth regular. We also see Pas’s parents - mum does most of the talking, and, most endearingly. Pas can also be seen aged 13 on Dutch TV telling the show host that he wanted to play the cello because he ‘wanted to sit behind a big instrument’. Also on the DVD is a complete performance of the Debussy Cello Sonata - complete with wobbly camera work and random low-flying candelabra. Things conclude with a short rehearsal clip in which pianist Stefano Vismara and Pas share a few choice thoughts on the programme with us.
The CD itself includes a nice mix of repertoire. Pas’s performances are generally good rather than great, though it’s always a pleasure to hear Poulenc’s delightful Cello Sonata. Pas is spirited in this work, though his intonation isn’t perfect and the duo is heavier and less sparkling than Françoise Groben and Alexandre Tharaud’s Naxos account (8.505222). Their Messiaen is also a little dry, with Pas seem not really able to sustain to tone required to approach Messiaen’s characteristic transcendent state. In Jacqueline Fontyn’s Six Climats (1972), the duo play their disparate parts as though operating on different planes, a sound that works well in these effects-heavy pieces. They’re not particularly memorable, though, despite Pas’s and Vismara’s determined advocacy.
The real coup, then, is the imaginative presentation, though I don’t like the folding cardboard packaging, which doesn’t stand up to much use.
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Good, rather than great, performances coupled with an imaginative introduction to the artists.