Song of the Birds
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946) Spanish Dance no. 1 (from La Vida Breve) [3:45]; Suite Populaire Espagnole [13:19]; Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908) Zapateado, op. 23, no.2 [3:36]; Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992) Le Grand Tango [11:55]; Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916) Spanish Dance no 2. (Orientale) [3:22]; Gaspar CASSADO (1897-1966) Requiebros [5:09]; Suite for Solo Cello [17:11]; Albert GINASTERA (1916-1983) Pampeana no 2 [9:02]; Pablo CASALS (1876-1973) Song of the Birds [3:47]
Nancy Green (cello)
Tannis Gibson (piano
rec. Aug. 2008, Crowder Hall, University of Arizona, School of Music and Dance.
The title of this CD derives from the last track, Cant del ocells (Song of the Birds), an adaptation of a Catalan folk song by the great cellist, Pablo Casals. Declining to live in Spain during the Franco regime, he took up residency first in France and then later in Puerto Rico. In 1971 he addressed the United Nations General Assembly and presented this music describing it as ‘the sound of my country - Catalonia,’ and offering it as a symbol of world peace. This music is eloquently described in the liner-notes: ‘the gentle melody floats over a minimalist accompaniment, drawing a bucolic panorama of sound.’ While a relevant name for this recording, it is shared with a number of other cello music discs.
One could easily be misled by the programme description provided: Spanish and Latin Cello. In reality more than half of the music was not written for the cello but constitutes arrangements for the instrument by past virtuosi. The Spanish also dominate proceedings with only two of the seven composers/arrangers being from South America. Irrespective, this is an enjoyable and well-chosen selection with lots of rhythmic commonalities.
As one would anticipate from two seasoned professionals, the performances are both musical and capable. The pianist is always cognisant of her role as accompanist and that the programme is presented as one by the cello.
Nancy Green studied cello at the Juilliard School of Music with Leonard Rose and Lynn Harrell. She also performed in master classes with Mstislav Rostropovich. In addition to the many prizes won, Nancy Green was spotlighted as Young Artist of the Year by Musical America.
Tannis Gibson holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Regina magna cum laude and a Master of Music degree from the Juilliard School of Music. Currently she is Associate Professor of Piano at The University of Arizona.
The recording level of this disc was made atypically high, necessitating careful attention to the volume control. However it does allow much insight into the often ebullient playing of Nancy Green. The subtleties of resonances in her beautiful cello are minutely audible and ubiquitously present, especially in the Piazzolla and Cassadó’s unaccompanied suite. While the former is frequently recorded, the latter is rarely and may be new to many, including some cello aficionados.
Although a favoured initiative by many musicians, including J.S. Bach, arrangement of music for instruments other than those for which the music was originally composed, can produce mixed results, and may not work as well as on the original. Enrique Granados expressed preference for Miguel Llobet’s guitar arrangements over his originals for piano.
Pablo de Sarasate’s Zapateado is a virtuosic masterpiece for the violin. While the cello may endow this piece with its own set of virtues, on this occasion the detail in particularly fast violin passages, is not replicated (Dorian DOR- 90183, Rachel Barton; EMI Classics CDM 764 559 2, Eduardo Hernández Asiain). Ofra Harnoy (RCA RD 60697) manages this same piece with considerable bravura and executes it in a time of 3:05, significantly faster than the review disc. Despite this, the same passages suffer loss of fine detail when compared with the violin versions. One may confidentially attribute this to adaptation rather than player. It is fair to say that generally the arrangements for cello presented here work well on the surrogate instrument.
The liner-notes by Nohema Fernández are comprehensive, informative and well-written. They will be especially appreciated by listeners with a desire for greater insight into the music and those who composed it.
This is a recording with general, wide appeal, albeit potentially narrowed slightly by the Cassadó Suite for Solo Cello. For aficionados this will potentially be the highlight of the disc; for the less initiated, seventeen minutes of consecutive solo cello may take some aural adjustment.
Zane Turner
An enjoyable recording with general, wide appeal.