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Schumann cello 12581

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Fantasiestücke, Op. 73 [11:43]
Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70 [9:43]
Fünf Stücke im Volkston, Op. 102 [17:31]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Lied ohne Worte, Op. Posth. 109 [4:08]
Nathaniel Rosen (cello)
Doris Stevenson (piano)
Recording details unknown, transferred from the original master tapes released by Desmar Records 1978

Recently I reviewed the legendary RCA recording of Der fliegende Holländer from 1960, conducted by Antal Dorati, which had been restored by John H. Haley. He had, among other things, corrected the pitch variations that were inherent in the original tapes, which means that for the first time listeners can enjoy the sound as it was heard at the recording sessions. The present disc is the first in a planned series of releases based upon master tapes from Desmar Records, a company that had a rather short lease of life during the late 1970s. But the quality of the recordings was high and and the sound on this disc is fresh as paint. It also offers an opportunity to hear a sadly under-recorded artist, a one-time Gold Medal winner in the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1978. Cellist Nathanial Rosen, born in 1948, made his first recordings for Desmar, prior to the competition but exact details are missing.

He studied with the legendary Gregor Piatigorsky from age 13 and after graduation served as teaching assistant to his teacher, until he in 1977 became principal cellist of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, under its then chief conductor André Previn. His solo career took him to leading American and European orchestras and chamber music festivals. Today he lives in Japan.

Schumann’s frequently played works for cello are excellent vehicles for his 1738 Montagnana cello and its warm, sweet tone. The playing is nuanced with natural phrasing, and he caresses the music without exaggerations. One never has the impression of showing off, of playing for the gallery. Here is a serious artist whose wish is to communicate his love for the music directly to the listener. The Fantasiestücke are inward pieces, rather yearning. The third piece, Rasch und mit Feuer, has more energy, but basically it is still soft and loveable – and very cantabile. Adagio and Allegro is also caressing and so beautifully played, and the balance between cello and piano ideal.

Fünf Stücke im Volkston are more varied. The jagged rhythms in the first piece has distinct Hungarian flavour – and is certainly played “with humour” as indicated. The second, slow and pensive, is played with great warmth, in the third the double stops are executed with great precision, the fourth is energic but melancholy, and in the concluding piece the rhythms are incisive but still played with a light touch.

Mendelssohn’s Lied ohne Worte is a charming encore, tender and loveable.

As a whole this is an admirable disc, and I am happy to have had the chance to hear Nathaniel Rosen and Doris Stevenson, neither of whom I have never come across before. My only slight grumble is the short playing time, but 44 minutes was an average time for an LP back in the 1970s – and every minute was a pleasure to savour.

Göran Forsling

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