Cello Dreams

ABC 481 1629

The great American cellist once said, “The cello is the most perfect instrument aside from the human voice”. That perhaps explains why arias and other songs lend themselves to cello transcription so well, such as Handel’s arias Lascia ch’io piana (from Rinaldo), Par che mi nasca in seno (from Tamerlano) and Sondheim’s Goodbye for Now, as well as the folk song, I Will Give My Love an Apple.

Cello DreamsOn this double CD compilation set, there are 27 tracks of exquisite cello solos played by some of Australia’s most outstanding cellists. Dreamy is the mood of the music selections, and as a consequence the chosen repertoire is slow in speed. The cover photograph of a cello lying down (as if a person) in a grassy field is also suggestive that the music will be contemplative.

The majority of tracks are played by two cellists, Sally Maer (9 pieces), and Li-Wei Qin (5 pieces), whilst others feature Janis Laurs, Louise King, Michael Goldschlager, Julian Thompson, Suzanne Wijsman, Noeleen Wright, Daniel Yeardon, Anthea Cottee, Fenelia Gill, and Jamie Hey.

The accompanying forces should not be diminished in any way simply because this is a disc of solo cello music. The Melbourne & Adelaide Symphony Orchestras, Sinfonia Australis, and Australian Brandenburg Orchestra are put alongside piano accompanists and chamber musicians, including Anna Goldsworthy, Mark Kruger, Sally Whitwell, Genevieve Lang, Janice Preece, Catherine Strutt, Genevieve Lacey, Neal Peres Da Costa, Paul Dyer, and Michael Brimer.

As well as the expected inclusions, such as The Swan (Saint-Saens), Cello Concertos movements (Vivaldi, Haydn, Dvorak & Elgar), Cello Suites (Bach), Variations on a Rococo Theme, and Pezzo capriccioso (Tchaikovsky), Sonata movements (Boismortier, Saint-Saens), Cantilena from Bachianas brasileiras No 5 (Villa-Lobos), Winter (Largo) from The Four Seasons (Vivaldi), Sinfonia (Arioso) from Cantata BWV 156 (Bach), there are lesser-known pieces such as Promenade a l’automne (Tournier), an arrangement of the traditional Scottish, Unst Bridal March, Sicilienne (Paradis), Adagio (Zipoli), and the refreshingly new in Spiegel im Spiegel (Part).

This is a most beautiful recording, with truly delightful music, played with warmth, passion and at times charming simplicity.

Elgar, Britten, Walton

Li-Wei Qin (Cello)
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Zhang Yi (Conductor)
ABC 481 1243

In this recording we find a stunning soloist, Li-Wei Qin who, from an early age, made huge strides in the concert world. Now 39, Qin is one of the world’s great cellists, who had lived and studied in Australia for a number of years after his family moved her from Shanghai, when he was 13 years of age.

Elgar Britten WaltonThis new release of works by English composers from the first half of the twentieth century, Elgar, Britten, and Walton, showcase a diverse range of compositional style.

Elgar’s famous and well-loved Cello Concerto has seen every acclaimed cellist add it into his or her repertoire list. Qin’s performance is complete, with his sublime artistic account and skillful technique.

Walton’s Cello Concerto, written in 1956, sets out a totally different structure for a concerto with its lyrical, moderately-paced first movement, a passionate, faster second movement, and a final movement, which is a Theme with Improvisations. Playing a 1780 Guadagnini cello, Qin adroitly traverses all the hills and dales of this work with alacrity, virtuosic mastery and poetic sensitivity.

The London Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance of Britten’s Four Sea Interludes (a series of pieces from the opera Peter Grimes) under conductor Zhang Li, shows the exploration of evocative tone colours, contrasting melancholic and dramatic brass moments, brilliance of strings, and fluttering woodwinds (suggesting seagulls). This performance perfectly captures, in instrumental form, the drama within the seaside village and the interactions between its central characters.

Apart from this being a great recording to have in one’s collection, for the music teacher, there are many study purposes: it is great for HSC students in topics such as An Instrument and Its Repertoire, Music 1900-1945 (for the Elgar and Britten), Music 1945-1990 (Walton); as well, for more generalised music teaching, this disc provides opportunity to explore orchestration, tone colour, and structure.

Cello Romance

ABC 476 5162

Anthologies of famous cello music abound, but this latest 2CD release from ABC Classics deserves to be heard. It is a compilation of recordings made mostly by Australians, including Janis Laurs, Li-Wei Qin, Sally Maer, Louise King, Michael Goldschlager, Julian Thompson, Suzanne Wijsman, Noeleen Wright, Daniel Yeardon, Anthea Cottee, Fenella Gill and Jamie Hey.

Along with the usual and equally spendid performances of movements from Bach’s Cello Suites and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, as well as movements from the very famous concertos by Vivaldi, Dvorak and Elgar, and well known pieces by Tchaikovsky and Saint-Saens, there is much that will interest all kinds of listeners, from cello students and teachers right through to the man or woman in the street.

The apparent simplicity of the Adagio movement from Haydn’s Cello Concert in C is quite delightful with its lyrically shaped phrases. The pizzicato accompaniment to the legato melody in Villa-Lobos’s Cantilena from Bachianas Brasileiras No 5 adds to the Latin American flavour.

The tranquil mood of Spiegel im Spiegel (or “mirror in the mirror”) by Avro Part allows the listener into a rare space of solitude where an infinite number of images can collide. The playing here by Sally Maer and Sally Whitwell (on piano) is most moving.

As well as the standard cello repertoire, there are transcriptions of arias and songs (Handel’s Lascia ch’io pianga from Rinaldo, and Par che mi nasca in seno from Tamerlano, Sondheim’s Goodbye for Now, and the Ionian song, I Will Give My Love an Apple).

Large scale accompaniments are provided by various orchestras (Melbourne and Adelaide Symphony Orchestras, Sinfonia Australis, and Australian Brandenburg Orchestra) on some tracks, but also a diverse range of other accompaniment forms, including piano, harp, harpsichord and chamber settings, thus giving a range of tonal combinations.

Whilst there are sonata movements by de Boismortier and Saint-Saens, it is perhaps in the lesser known works (von Paradis and Zipoli, for example) or transcriptions where this disc actually offers something more.

As a compilation album, covering a smorgasbord of repertoire over a 400 year period, it is well worth having in one’s collection.