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Ophélie Gaillard (cello)
Orchestre Philharmonique Monte-Carlo/James Judd,
Sirba Octet members
rec. 2015, Monte Carlo & 2016, Notre Dame du Liban, Paris
APARTÉ AP142 [69.00]

On Aparté French cellist Ophélie Gaillard has released an album of works by composers who sought refuge and opportunities in the US. Predominantly the theme of the album is Jewish composers exiled in America, notably Bloch and Korngold who travelled there to escape Nazi persecution. Also represented is Prokofiev who left Russia for the US but was not of Jewish origin.

In 1916 Geneva-born composer Ernest Bloch toured the US as a conductor of the forty-piece orchestra for Maud Allan and her dance troupe. Returning the next year Bloch became a US citizen in 1924. Bloch’s Schelomo, Hebraic Rhapsody for cello and orchestra was inspired by text from the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes. Written in 1915/16 this is one of the last works Bloch wrote in Europe before touring the USA. Cello soloist Hans Kindler, who was at the time principal cellist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, gave the première of the score in 1917 at Carnegie Hall. In this disarmingly passionate work Gaillard is fully attuned to the intense emotions that run from tortured anger, rapt expectation to brooding despair. Bloch wrote From Jewish Life for cello and piano in 1924 whilst on holiday at Santa Fe, New Mexico. The three short pieces were premièred by soloist Hans Kindler. On this recording Gaillard plays the arrangement prepared by Cyrille Lehn for cello, clarinet, cimbalom and double bass. The clarinet and cimbalom add greatly to the heady blend of Jewish rhythms and intense spiritual atmosphere that runs through the work.

Erich Korngold moved to the US in 1938 to avoid the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany. Making a name for himself with Oscar winning Hollywood film scores in the 1930s and 1940s Korngold began to turn his attention to the concert hall, often borrowing themes and material from his movie soundtracks. Composed in 1946, in his Concerto in one movement for cello and orchestra Korngold expanded his score for the Irving Rapper film Deception (1946) starring Bette Davis, Paul Henreid and Claude Rains. Here Gaillard’s passionate playing, full of artistry and understated elegance eminently suits the lush, romantic score. In 1920 the twenty-three year old Korngold gained great success with his three-act opera Die tote Stadt (The Dead City). Here the acclaimed second act aria ‘Mein Sehnen, mein Wähnen’, also known as the ‘Pierrot’s Tanzlied’ is played by Gaillard in an arrangement for cello and orchestra. Although this instrumental version rather lacks the interest and colours of the original baritone aria, Gaillard performs the intoxicating score quite deliciously.

Owing to the political and social upheaval in Russia Prokofiev felt compelled to leave for the US and the opportunities the country afforded. Arriving in America in 1918 by a circuitous route Prokofiev was only allowed to enter the country after great difficulties. The first independent work Prokofiev wrote whilst in the USA was his Overture on Jewish (Hebrew) Themes; the first time the composer had displayed an interest in Jewish music. In 1919 the Jewish Zimro Ensemble who Prokofiev knew from the St. Petersburg Conservatoire came to America. Zimro, a string quartet with clarinet and piano, requested an overture for the sextet, giving Prokofiev a notebook of Jewish themes and the composer soon obliged. Gaillard and five musicians from the Sirba Octet play with an infectious exuberance that really evokes the uplifting essence of Eastern-European Jewish folk music.

Also contained on the release are three tradition Jewish miniatures, evocative works where Gaillard is joined by various members of the Sirba Octet. There is an uplifting and buoyant arrangement for cello and double bass of a traditional version of the short ‘Wedding Dance’. Written by renowned Israel singer/songwriter Chava Alberstein ‘Sarah Sings a Lullaby to Little Isaac’ is played in Cyrille Lehn’s arrangement for cello, cimbalom and double bass, and inhabits a mellow, deeply reflective mood. Finally comes ‘Freilechs’, an uplifting and infectious, foot tapping collection of klezmer-inspired traditional Jewish folk medleys and other lullabies arranged for cello, clarinet, cimbalom and double bass by Cyrille Lehn.

Gaillard plays a cello by Francesco Goffriller (1737) with a gloriously mellow tone, with the sound delightfully captured by the engineering team. Recorded across two studio locations the Auditorium Rainier III, Monte Carlo and Notre Dame du Liban, Paris, Gaillard, orchestra and chamber ensemble all have the benefit of pleasingly consistent sound, clear and well balanced. There are three essays in the booklet all concerned mainly with Jewish immigration to America including Jewish composers who made that journey to find refuge from Nazi Germany together with a note from soloist Gaillard and also a number of recording-session photographs.

Throughout the programme one is aware of Ophélie Gaillard’s acute sense of engagement, stylish and expressive playing, conveying a feeling this is music to be enjoyed.

Michael Cookson

Programme listing
Ernest BLOCH (1880-1959)
1. Schelomo, Hebraic Rhapsody for cello and orchestra (1915/16) [21.35]
Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)
2. Concerto in one movement for cello and orchestra, Op. 37 (1946) [12.30]
3. ‘Mein Sehnen, mein Wähnen’ (Pierrot’s Tanzlied) from opera Die tote Stadt (The Dead City) (1920) [4.24]
Serge PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
4. Overture on Jewish Themes, for string quartet, clarinet and piano, Op. 34 (1919) [8.31]
Ernest BLOCH (1880-1959)
5-7. From Jewish Life, for cello, clarinet, cimbalom and double bass* (1924) [8.58]
8. Wedding Dance for cello and bass [2.19]
Chava ALBERSTEIN (1947)
9. Sarah Sings a Lullaby to Little Isaac, arranged for cello, cimbalom and double bass* [3.39]
10. Freilechs - collection of traditional Jewish medleys and other lullabies for cello, clarinet, cimbalom and double bass* Sim Shalom, (Paikov Yeshayahu), Azoy Tantzmen in Odessa [6.48]
Works arranged by Cyrille Lehn*
Orchestre Philharmonique Monte-Carlo/James Judd (tracks 1-3)
rec. 14-16 July 2015 Auditorium Rainier III, Monte Carlo, Monaco
Members of Sirba Octet (tracks 4-10)
rec. 27-28 June 2015 Notre Dame du Liban, Paris, France



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