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Jan Vogler (cello)
Ismo Eskelinen (guitar)
rec. 2019 Lethe Lounge, New York City
SONY CLASSIC 19075959762 [54.50]

Jan Vogler’s last three albums have demonstrated his eclectic performing taste with ‘New Worlds’ with American actor Bill Murray; ‘Double Concertos’ works by Brahms, Rihm and Harbison with violinist Mira Wang, and on period instruments, Schumann’s Cello Concerto (c/w Symphony No. 2). As recently as June, Vogler performed with rock/blues legend Eric Clapton at the Dresden Music Festival.

For this new Sony album ‘Songbook’ Jan Vogler has joined with renowned guitarist Ismo Eskelinen. In truth I’ve never previously encountered the combination of cello and guitar on the concert platform. For the collection the emphasis is on works chosen for their markedly “songlike” qualities. The album comprises of a work each from ten composers, works separated by over one hundred and forty years, the earliest is from Paganini, the most recent a Mancini song and a Gnattali sonata. Astutely chosen, the programme is a mix of the well known and the rarely heard.

Not surprisingly there are relatively few repertoire staples written specifically for the pairing of cello and guitar and here two are included, namely Burgmüller’s attractive Three Nocturnes and the short but exquisite opening movement of Gnattali’s Sonata. Of the well known works Paganini’s charming Cantabile never fails to delight and from the Blake Edwards film Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) I find Mancini’s Moon River quite hauntingly played. My highlight is Piazzolla’s Histoire du Tango, especially the second piece Café 1930 which certainly evokes the sultry atmosphere of the seductive tango in the bars of Buenos Aires. Another favourite is Satie’s Gymnopédie No. 1 with Vogler revelling in the cantilena qualities of the writing which eminently suits the cello with its quite gorgeous tone. Throughout the cello gets the lion’s share of the melody with the guitar providing the rhythm the exception being the dance-like Allegretto comodo (opening movement) from Gnattali’s Sonata which shares the roles. I’m unsure why the remaining movements Adagio, and Con spirito movements weren’t included. It’s not long before one detects a real empathy between Vogler and Eskelinen together with an unquestionable feeling and sensitivity for each work. Although the instruments don’t provide the greatest sonorous contrast there is an abundance of warm colour in these clean and fresh performances.

Recorded earlier this year at Lethe Lounge, New York City the closely recorded sound has pleasing clarity and balance. Written by Christoph Vratz the booklet essay is both a helpful and interesting read. My only grumble is there is plenty of space on the album for additional works to have been included.

For admirers of the cello and guitar, and those looking for something different to the usual fare this sparklingly played album fits the bill splendidly.

Michael Cookson

Nicoló PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Cantabile, Op.17, MS 109 (arranged for cello & guitar) (1824) [3.25]
Friedrich BURGMÜLLER (1806-1874)
Three Nocturnes cello & guitar:
I. Andantino [2.36]
II. Adagio cantabile [3.49]
III. Allegro moderato [2.01]
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Bachianas Brasileiras No.5: Aria (Cantilena) - (arranged for cello & guitar) [4.05]
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Histoire du Tango (arranged for cello & guitar):
Nightclub 1960 [5.39]
Café 1930 [6.29]
Bordel 1900 [4.13]
Henry MANCINI (1924-1994)
Moon River (arranged for cello & guitar) (1961) [3.37]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1996)
Suite Populaire Espagnole (arranged for cello & guitar):
I. El Pano Moruno [2.19]
II. Nana [2.35]
III. Canción [1.26]
IV. Polo [1.15]
V. Asturiana [2.03]
VI. Jota [2.58]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Pièce en forme de Habanera (arranged for cello & guitar) [2.51]
Radamés GNATTALI (1906-88)
Sonata (1969) [3.57]
Erik SATIE (1866-1925)
Gymnopédie No.1 (arranged for cello & guitar by Jan Vogler) [2.49]

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