Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Carnival of the Animals XIII. The Swan [3:13]
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Silent Woods Op.68, No.5 [6:08]
Ernest BLOCH (1885-1977)
From Jewish Life: No.1 Prayer [4:52]
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Kol Nidrei Op.47 [10:58]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Nocturne in C sharp minor Op.19/4 [4:02]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)
Les larmes de Jacqueline [7:58]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Élégie in C minor Op.24 [6:43]
Pablo CASALS (1876-1973)
Song of the birds [3:49]
Harriet Krijgh (cello)
Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz/Gustavo Gimeno
rec. Ludwigshafen Philharmonie, 2014
CAPRICCIO C5222 [50:29]
Harriet Krijgh, now in her mid-twenties, is another gifted young cellist endeavouring to make an impression in an already overcrowded market, but with the committed support of the Capriccio recording label.
This disc, entitled “Elegy”, is her fourth for Capriccio and comes with a bonus DVD that charts her musical development and extols her virtues as an artist. Her choice of repertoire is essentially a compilation of nine well-known contemplative and meditative tunes. One is probably therefore to presume that she and her recording company believe this to be a particular strength in her musical armoury. Conductor Gustavo Gimeno, at the helm has the task of accompanying, and he is like her, still a young and developing performer.
Krijgh is unquestionably a dedicated and disciplined young artist; her performances are fluent, with a beautiful tone, singing cantabile, considered use of rubato and vibrato, and command of almost every other device one could usefully employ on a stringed instrument. However, the ingredient I most yearn for in this case is the maturity of understanding that is required to illuminate the essence of the programme she has chosen.
The disc begins with a somewhat fussy performance of Saint-Saëns’ Swan, and although it is presented with appropriate polish, the music is not allowed to flow effortlessly enough to capture the true elegance of the swan. The cellist's evident determination to make an impact could easily be misconstrued as wilfulness, one that needlessly detracts from her musical purpose. Dvorak’s Silent Woods and Ernest Bloch’s Prayer suffer much the same fate, with the music not allowed to speak freely, or indeed idiomatically enough.
Bruch’s Kol Nidrei, the longest work on the disc, along with Tchaikovsky’s Nocturne and Fauré’s Elegy are especially well-known concert pieces for the cello and these performances inevitably invite comparison with those of some of the legendary musicians of the past. She holds her own, but I have every confidence that she will return to these works many more times during the course of her career. This recording will prove to have been a mere springboard. Offenbach provides a useful diversion from the mainstream. A few more pieces off the beaten track, of which there is an almost inexhaustible supply, would have been especially welcome.
Composers are not necessarily always the best interpreters of their own music, but no live or recorded performance of Casals’ Song of the Birds has in my opinion ever matched or indeed come close to matching the depth of emotion of his own performance at the United Nations in 1971, a few days before his 94th birthday. To do justice to Casals’ lifelong commitment to global peace and also his yearning for Catalonian statehood in a composition of just under four minutes’ duration is a tall order. On this occasion I was unable to hear the birds calling out in the name of peace.
The recorded balance favours the solo cello unduly. Allowing the orchestra a better-integrated and more committed contribution might well have resulted in an even more gratifying musical experience.
With greater maturity and experience Harriet Krijgh will undoubtedly refine her substantial musical resources, and also learn how most effectively to utilise them in the service of the music. I look forward to hearing more from her in the future.