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Cello Meets Harp
Mathias Johansen (cello), Silke Aichhorn (harp)
rec. 15-17 July 2020, Südwestrundfunk, SWR Studio Kaiserlautern, Germany
CPO 555 463-2 [66.00]

This is not a particularly life-changing or challenging release – and is none the worse for that. It is, however, delightful and ideal for relaxation or late-night listening. That is not to suggest the programme – very well constructed, blending familiar with much less so (though only the piece by Charles Oberthür is a first recording – the Nocturne by Franz Strauss, father of Richard, is a first recording in an arrangement for cello and harp: originally, it was composed for horn, Franz’s own instrument).

The works selected are enjoyably mellifluous. The harp is, in its nature, not an instrument made for harshness, while the cello has the capacity for both the mellow and the truly fiery. On this recording, Mathias Johansen opts overwhelmingly for the mellow and the lyrical, which suits the simple elegance of so many of the works. Such an approach is a natural fit with the musical imagination of Fauré, and the two arrangements here are characterful and poised.

Perhaps most interest focuses on the Magic Flute Variations by Spohr, himself a violinist married to a virtuoso harpist, Dorette Scheidler. The arrangement for cello and harp works very well, demanding much virtuosity, especially of the harpist: it is a beautiful piece.

Several of the other composers were themselves harpists (Tournier, Hasselmans, Oberthür), while Kraft was a cellist. It seems next to nothing is known about Verdalle, indeed, so little that the track list in the booklet gives his date of birth as 1845, while Silke Aichhorn in her admirably informative notes, opts for 1898. The Discography of American Historical Recordings opts for 1847-1918. If 1898 is the case, his conjectural death date suggests a man of remarkable musical precocity to produce this charming little piece.

Performances emphasise the lyrical and the poetic, and these are impressive players, technically assured and understated in their virtuosity. CPO production values are at their best, with highly informative notes allied to splendidly clear recording in a natural ambience.

Michael Wilkinson

Franz STRAUSS (1822-1905)
Nocturne Op 7 [5.59]
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
‘Liebeslied’ aus drei Alt-Wiener Tanzweisen [3.17]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Adagio für eine Spieluhr WoO 33, No 1 [5.00]
Nicolaus KRAFT (1778-18530
Divertimento [2.09]
Louis SPOHR (1784-1859)
Sonata Op 114 in D major: 2nd movement ’Zauberflötenvariationen’ [11.38]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Sicilienne Op 78 from Pelléas et Mélisande [4.07]
Après un rêve, Op 7 [2.58]
Marcel TOURNIER (1879-1951)
Nocturne Op 21 [4.48]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Allegro agitato [4.36]
Alphonse HASSELMANS (1845-1912)
Confidence [2.34]
Charles OBERTHÜR (1819-1895)
Old Robin Gray [5.24]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Pavane pour une infante défunte M.19 [5.32)
Gabriel VERDALLE (1845?-c.1915?)
Méditation Op 18 [3.04]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
‘Le cygne’ from ‘Carnival of the Animals’, R.125/XII [2.44]

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