Cello Elegies and Romances - Vol. 1 
Pablo CASALS (1876-1973)
Song of the Birds [2:57]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Mélodie - élégie [2:15]
Fanny MENDELSSOHN-HENSEL (1805-1847)
Fantasia in G minor [6:11]
Capriccio in A flat [7:01]
Paul TORTELIER (1914-1990)
Élégie [5:37]
David WILDE (1935-)
The Cellist of Sarajevo for solo cello, Op 12 [7:59]
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Élégie, Op 17 [9:21]
Peter DICKINSON (1934-)
Threnody [7:26]
Pyotr Il’yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Polonaise from Eugene Onegin (arr. Lynex/Wells) [5:20]
Cello Elegies and Romances - Vol. 2
Sergey RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Romance [2:28]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Élégie, Op 24 [7:02]
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)
Élégie [3:56]
C. Wilfred ORR (1893-1976)
Midsummer Dance [3:43]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Sonate [12:27]
Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1924)
Guitarre, Op 45 No 2 [4:05]
Isobel DUNLOP (1901-1975)
Suite for cello and piano [10:02]
Kenneth LEIGHTON (1929-1988)
Elegy [8:10]
David POPPER (1846-1913)
Mazurka, Op 51 [3:48]
Penelope Lynex (cello); Alexander Wells (piano)
rec. 20-21 November 2004 and 22-23 April 2006, Wathen Hall, London, England
The chief virtue of Penelope Lynex’s two albums of Cello Elegies and Romances is the eclectic selection she offers. We get a few old favorites, like Casals’ “Song of the Birds” and Fauré’s “Élégie,” mixed in with a lot of surprises: works by Peter Dickinson and Wilfred Orr dedicated to the performer, plus appearances by pianist-composers David Wilde (“The Cellist of Sarajevo”) and Moritz Moszkowski, a suite by Isobel Dunlop, and miniatures from the cellists David Popper and Paul Tortelier.
The first disc has more of a 19th-century bent than the second, perhaps, since it includes a divine “Mélodie” by Massenet, two works by Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel, and a nearly ten-minute “Élégie” by Alexander Glazunov. Casals’ “Song of the Birds” is the poignant opener, and the standout is Lynex’s highly impassioned reading of David Wilde’s solo work “The Cellist of Sarajevo” - written in homage to a lone cellist who braved the Bosnian war to play outside each day. To round things off, Lynex and pianist Alexander Wells wheel out their own transcription of the polonaise from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.
The second disc has a few big names: Rachmaninov, in a miniature romance, Fauré, in his moving elegy, Milhaud, and the cello sonata by Claude Debussy. Balancing this out is Wilfred Orr’s absolutely delightful - and familiar-sounding - “Midsummer Dance,” dedicated to the performer, and elegies by Kenneth Leighton and Isobel Dunlop. There are also a couple of surprises from the 19th century cello master David Popper (a bubbly mazurka) and Moritz Moszkowski (a convincing evocation of the guitar).
So the musical choices are quite adventurous and welcome, and the sound is quite close but without conceding any warmth. There is an intermittent crackle in the left channel during the Leighton. Alexander Wells is a sensitive accompanist; his bird-calls at the beginning and end of the Casals are spine-tinglingly good, as is his playing in the Dunlop elegy. The weak link is, alas, cellist Penelope Lynex, a student of Paul Tortelier’s who is renowned as a teacher and whose work with numerous contemporary composers is evident in the recitals. Lynex’s cello tone can be pinched and unsteady, with a forced sound and pitches wavering unpleasantly at times. Occasionally vibrato spills over the line from expressive force to irritation. If you can handle cello playing which is not of the first rank, and the program intrigues you, do invest; there are few other ways to hear, for instance, Tortelier’s “Élégie” or C.W. Orr’s “Midsummer Dance.” Additionally, Lynex is at her best in music closest to her, the Wilde, Orr, and Leighton especially. But the better-known works are much better-done elsewhere - Maria Kliegel for Fauré, say - and this does not really transcend the background music category.
Brian Reinhart
Intriguing programs loaded with rarities, but the cello playing is not fully up to snuff