Hans PFITZNER (1869-1949)
Cello Concerto in G major (1935) [16:02]
John MAYER (1929-2004)
Prabhanda (I Ampari - Kirtan I; II Alaap I; III Tihai; IV Alaap II; V
Jhala; VI Kirtan II; VII Ragatal; VIII Gat) [21:00]
Six Ragamalas [22:49]
Rohan de Saram (cello)
Netherlands Radio Orchestra/Bohumil Gregor
Druvi de Saram (piano) in Prabhanda; John Mayer (tanpura) in Six Ragamalas
rec. 10 January 1980, AVRO Studios, Hilversum, Holland (Pfitzner); 1983, Conway
Hall, London (Mayer). DDD
FIRST HAND RECORDS FHR14 [59:51]
This disc might be entitled Homage to Rohan de Saram. The pieces he performs
here showcase the three sides of his musical personality and career: strong
ability with classic cello works, advocacy for new music and adeptness with
the forms of the music of his own Sri Lankan heritage. All are performed with
the commitment and attention to detail typical of this performer.
Pfitzner’s Cello Concerto No. 1 was written in 1935 and shares little
of the angst of the Violin Concerto or the Symphony Op. 46. It is a mixture
of the pastoral and the energetic. De Saram brings out both these qualities.
He produces a beautiful sound while paying close attention to the rhythmic elements
of the piece and is quite moving in the central development section as well
the final restatement of the main theme at the work’s conclusion. The
overall performance is extremely well thought out, but passionate at the same
time: de Saram specialities.
John Mayer was born sixty years after Pfitzner to an Anglo-Indian family in
Calcutta. Though he spent most of his career in Birmingham, the music of India
permeates his works, making him an ideal collaborator with Rohan de Saram both
in composition and performance. Of the two Mayer works recorded here, Prabhanda
is the more interesting. It combines the forms of raga sections with a modern,
but lyrical twentieth century classical idiom. Unlike so many blends of eastern
and western music, the whole really is more than the sum of the parts: this
is music that is integrated and expressive without in any way being artificial.
In this piece de Saram’s rhythmic abilities are to the fore and he is
ably backed up by his brother Druvi. The Six Ragamalas are each based
on the notes of a specific raga, which also has a pictorial connotation. Here
the cello is accompanied by the tanpura, a lute-like instrument. While numbers
four and especially six are very impressive, the overall set lacked the force
of the Prabhanda pieces. De Saram’s playing is notable for his differentiation
of the moods of the six pieces and John Mayer’s playing cannot be faulted.
The Mayer recordings have all appeared before in various formats. The Pfitzner
was originally recorded for broadcast and though more than thirty years old,
is quite serviceable though the soloist was placed too close to the microphone.
The Netherlands Radio Orchestra under Bohumil Gregor plays with a lot of warmth.
The recording quality of the Mayer pieces is a little rough-and -ready but does
not detract from the music. Given de Saram’s wide repertoire, it’s
a shame he did not record Pfitzner’s other two cello concertos as his
performance here is the equal of David Geringas’s on the latter’s
complete set on CPO.
Performances that are passionate but extremely well thought out.