Friday, 18 November 2011

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, November 2011)

CASALS Encores
Hyperion 67831 / *****

This is a lovely collection of short cello pieces – mostly transcriptions – played as encores by the great Catalan cellist Pablo Casals (1876-1973). Besides being the first cellist to popularise and record all six of J.S.Bach’s Cello Suites, he had a wide and catholic taste in repertoire, as reflected in the 20 tracks. Spanish music was close to his heart; the unaccompanied Song Of The Birds, a traditional Catalan Christmas carol was his favourite encore. Here it sounds positively poignant and soulful, as is the equally evocative Andalusian lullaby Nana, from Manuel de Falla’s suite of Popular Spanish Songs, contrasted with the rhythmic lilt of Granados Andaluza.

The combo of familiar (Saint-Saëns’ The Swan, Elgar’s Salut d’Amour and Fauré’s Apres un Reve) and less trodden territory (Lassen, Sgambati and Popper) is an illuminating one, and there is nothing that isn’t worth listening to again. German cellist Alban Gerhardt coaxes a warm burnished tone from his Gofriller cello, always keenly attuned to the nuances of the music. The sensitive Philippines-born pianist Cecile Licad, in her Hyperion debut, sounds like the perfect accompanist for this truly enjoyable anthology.

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