It’s inevitable that the issue of cellist Gaspar Cassadó’s wartime performances should be aired in the booklet of this release. Despite his somewhat evasive answers on the subject it’s clear that the Spanish cellist and Casals-protégé performed extensively in Germany and German-occupied European countries during the war. It was this that led to the split in his friendship with Casals though Menuhin, ever-generous, called Cassadó politically naďve. In any case here are some wartime radio broadcasts to show the extent of his activities in that sphere – three are from Berlin and one from Hamburg.
The earliest dates from 12 November 1940 and features the Beethoven Magic Flute
variations, in which the pianist is Willy Hammer. The cellist’s artful, easy-going slides grace this with rich legato and a warmly communicative wit; his rubato is fully at the service of the music’s geniality. A few cello squeals attest to the live-ness of the performance; nothing sterile here. Hammer is on hand in the next recital, given just under a week later, in which they play Bach, and Cassadó’s own Dance of the Green Devil
. The Bach-Siloti Adagio
in C major has full expressive weight without overwrought gesturing whilst the cellist’s own showpiece is brilliantly articulated and his lyric B section is appropriately rich. I assume that these early performances were recorded on disc, as it doesn’t sound like tape with that amount of surface noise – but the engineering has been sensitively done to retain upper frequencies. The three items from November 1944 – again Hammer is the loyal accompanist – sound in better condition. He recorded Granados’s Andaluza
, in his own arrangement, in London for Columbia back in 1927 and this Berlin version is the more sweeping. Charming pizzicati animate the Mozart – again his own clever arrangement – and he plays Casals’ arrangement of Schumann’s Abendlied
with an appropriate increase in portamento usage.
In 1935 the cellist joined with his colleagues Jelly d’Aranyi and Myra Hess to form the British-based New Trio Ensemble, a short-lived group that made only one recording. This was the Brahms Trio in C major, Op.87, which has been reissued several times, sometimes in conjunction with a Schubert recording that the violinist and pianist made in New York with English cellist Felix Salmond. The C major trio crops up again in this Meloclassic disc, broadcast in Hamburg in April 1944, in which Cassadó is joined by Max Strub, leader of a successful quartet, and well-known pianist Adrian Aeschbacher. This live wartime recording is generally quicker than the 1935 studio reading – quite a bit more, in fact, in the scherzo – but otherwise the proportions are similar. Positively paced though this is, it’s a bit of a difficult listen. The recording, though quiet, is very shrill and gives a tremendously penetrating and razory quality to Strub’s tone, in particular. This makes ensemble between him and Cassadó quite a wild affair. It’s fine chamber playing, anchored by Aeschbacher but very tiring to listen to. The treble needs to be dampened but even then it’s hardly satisfactory. The same is true of the two movements from the Mozart trio, buoyantly played though they are. The transfer engineer has doubtless done the best he can with intractable source material.
This is however a valuable reclamation from German broadcast material and the preservation of the Strub-Cassadó-Aeschbacher trio especially so, however imperfect the sound quality.