Mark Schumann (cello)
Martin Klett (piano)
rec. 15-17 February 2016 at the Tonstudio Ölbergkirche, Berlin, Germany GENUIN CLASSICS GEN17458 [60:05]
My love affair with the cello began when I was a young girl of twelve. I was watching with my father a Portuguese television broadcast about classical music in which there was a clip of Jacqueline du Pré playing the first movement of Schumann’s Cello Concerto in A minor. It reduced me to tears for the sheer beauty of the music and her playing. After that my dad explained to me the features of the instrument, bought me a couple of records, told me about the great Portuguese cellist Guilhermina Suggia (1885-1950) and gave me material to read about cellos and cellists. Since then the cello has been my favourite music instrument. It touches me in a way that no other can. It always feels like it’s talking to me, asking me to understand its pain, joy, sadness or passion and is perhaps only second to the human voice in the expression of emotions. These were the reasons why I was keen to review this recording by cellist Mark Schumann and pianist Martin Klett. I’m very pleased to say it does not disappoint.
The concept of Short Stories is an interesting one. As Schumann says himself in the booklet notes: “For many concert goers, the so-called encores are undoubtedly the highlight of the concert. Slow encores… a pleasant diversion after rich musical fare… With fast encores, soloists enjoy thrilling the audience with technical acrobatics that might not occur in the main piece.” So the short stories in this album are encore pieces by a variety of performers and composers. Like an author’s collection of short stories, these pieces delight or thrill for a brief moment and do not require the commitment and engagement of a novel or, in this case, of a full concerto or a set of complete sonatas. As such, I think this is a very good CD to introduce people to classical music. It is one hour of encores – thrilling, short, delightful, often beautiful pieces. What’s not to like?
Both Mark Schumann and Martin Klett are still very young – Schumann was born in 1988; Klett in 1987 – and the enthusiasm and energy of youth come across while listening to the CD. It’s exciting and there is much to enjoy. Although all the pieces are short or, as Mark Schumann says himself, “miniatures”, it doesn’t mean that these are easy, superficial works. Each one presents a different challenge and some, like for example, Haydn’s Divertimento in D major or Mendelssohn’s Variations concertantes, are almost like a mini-concerto in a concentrated, compact format if one can describe a musical piece that way. What I mean is these little pieces tell a story, display emotions, have depth and so one finds contrasting elements; refined, delicate phrasing; form, movement, lyricism and show-stopping bits to suit the virtuoso but also feeling, contemplation, thought, light and darkness, hope and loss – to summarise everything one would expect to find in a great major composition: a slice of life, of humanity.
I enjoyed Short Stories very much. It’s a good companion CD to listen at any time, be it in the car or at home while reading. There are fourteen pieces in total from a wide variety of famous names and so they are all very different in style. Paganini’s Cantabile in D major that opens the recording is a vibrant little piece. Haydn’s Divertimento is beautiful and subtle in its classical deceptive simplicity. Davidoff’s Romance is quite delightful; Chopin’s Andante in E-flat major from the Nocturnes loses nothing of its lyrical romanticism when played on the cello and the instrument “sings” gorgeously in Mendelssohn’s Lied ohne Worte and Robert Schumann’s Abendlied.
Mark Schumann is an award-winning cellist and has participated in masterclasses with such musicians as cellist Steven Isserlis and conductor Seiji Ozawa. Schumann extracts a rich, velvety but also clean sound from his 1710 Testore cello. His intonation is flawless and his execution refined and elegant. He’s flexible and adaptable, moving from piece to piece with ease and transitioning from one style to another seamlessly. He bends his considerable virtuosity to the requirements of the piece, never allowing it to overshadow the music. He makes his instrument “sing” and for this exquisite interpretation, it must be said the excellent piano accompaniment contributes greatly. Martin Klett is perhaps less known than Mark Schumann but there is an evident rapport and musical understanding between the two and Klett’s subtle, never intrusive sound, sustains the song of the cello beautifully.
The CD packaging is suitably unostentatious and attractively minimalistic. The sound speaks for itself. The booklet is interesting to read and contains an introduction and acknowledgements by Mark Schumann, plus his and Martin Klett’s biographical notes in English and German.
Short Stories is an accomplished, mature recording from two young, enthusiastic performers that should be making headlines in the not too distant future. I enjoyed it immensely and would recommend it to anyone who loves the sound of the cello or to someone who would like a gentle, elegant introduction to classical music.
Contents Niccolò Paganini
Cantabile, Op. 17 [3:43] Carl Davidoff
At the fountain, Op. 20, No. 2 (1870) [3:50]
Romance [3:11] Joseph Haydn
Divertimento in D major (1767) – Adagio [3:44]; Minuetto [2:26]; Allegro [2:06] Fritz Kreisler
Syncopation (1925) [2:15]
Love’s sorrow (Liebesleid) from Three Old Viennese Dances (1910) [3:57] Anton Rubinstein
Romance, Op. 44, No. 1 (1859) [2:51] Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Variations concertantes, Op. 17 (1829) [9:03]
Song without Words (Lied ohne Worte), Op. 109 (1845) [4:09] Pablo de Sarasate
Spanish Dances, Op. 23, No. 2 (1880)
Zapateado [3:33] David Popper
Tarantella, Op. 33 [4:39] Frédéric Chopin
Nocturnes, Op. 9 (1830-31) Andante in E-flat major [4:49] Gabriel Fauré
Papillon, Op. 77 (1885) [2:38] Robert Schumann
Evening Song (Abendlied), from 12 Klavierstücke für kleine un größe Kinder, Op. 85, [3:01]