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Cellobration / Amit Peled, Eliza Ching

Release Date: 03/30/2010 
Label:  Centaur Records   Catalog #: 3047   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Felix MendelssohnKarl DavidovHenry EcclesEnrique Granados,   ... 
Performer:  Eliza ChingAmit Peled
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 59 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CELLOBRATION Amit Peled (vc); Eliza Ching (pn) CENTAUR 3047 (59:30)

MENDELSSOHN On Wings of Song , op. 34/2. DAVIDOFF At the Fountain, op. 20/2. ECCLES Cello Sonata in g. GRANADOS Spanish Dance, Read more class="ARIAL12"> op. 37/No. 5, “Andaluza” (“Playera”). FAURÉ Elégie. LIGETI Sonata for Solo Cello . BACH Pastorella in F. GLAZUNOV Chant du Ménéstrel. F. COUPERIN Pièces en Concert. CASALS Song of the Birds

Here is a collection of works for cello and piano both familiar and unfamiliar. Among the familiar are Fauré’s popular Élégie —albeit better known in its orchestral setting—transcribed for cello and piano, and Mendelssohn’s On Wings of Song , originally an actual song for voice and piano, that has been arranged and transcribed many times (Liszt and Heifetz both had a crack at it). In the unfamiliar category are a cello sonata by the virtually unknown Henry Eccles (1670–1742)—an English Baroque musician who ended up a member of Louis XIV’s King’s Band—and practically everything else on the disc, which though well known to cellists and often recorded, are not your usual fare on recital programs, except perhaps as encore pieces.

The Israeli-born Amit Peled plays a c.1689 cello by Andrea Guarneri, updated and fitted to modern standards. This, as far as I can tell, is only Peled’s second CD; the first, released in 2009 (Centaur 2988) was titled The Jewish Soul , and consisted of Jewish themed works, though not all necessarily by Jewish composers. For example, it included Bruch’s ubiquitous Kol Nidrei.

The “discovery” on this new disc is the Eccles sonata. Very little is known about this obscure violinist/composer, other than that he was born in England, was the elder brother to a more successful sibling John, whose success over his own he resented. Peeved by his perceived neglect, he moved to Paris, where he got himself hired on at the King’s court. What music he did write was either adapted from works by the Italian composer Giuseppe Valentini (1681–1753) or heavily influenced by them. In 1732, Eccles published 12 sonatas for gamba and figured bass; but according to the booklet note, the G-Minor Sonata given on the present CD is a transcription from an earlier set of violin sonatas. It takes the form of a typical sonata da chiesa (slow, fast, slow, fast), and considering its model, the piece, not surprisingly, is in an Italian style similar to what you would expect to hear from Vivaldi. What is perhaps surprising is that for a composer as virtually unknown as Eccles, there are five listed recordings of this sonata, going all the way back to a 1930 violin version played by Jacques Thibaud.

Latvian-born and Russian-trained, Carl (Karl) Davidoff (1838–89) was one of the great cello virtuosos of the 19th century. Tchaikovsky hailed Davidoff as “the tsar of cellists,” and the two men were friends and associates through their mutual connection to the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Davidoff’s At the Fountain is a popular encore piece that has had several recordings, including ones by Pieter Wispelwey, Miklós Perényi, and Jan Vogler. How would I describe the piece? A Flight of the Honeybee for cello: a nice little A-B-A form in which the bee leaves the hive and busily buzzes about to gather nectar and pollinate the petals (A), tarries momentarily to make love to a flower (B), and assisted by a tailwind returns home to the hive faster than it left (A).

From the 12 Spanish Dances by Enrique Granados, Peled plays a cello arrangement of the most popular number in the set, the No. 5. Titled Andaluza in the composer’s original version for piano, the piece has alternately come to be called Playera . It can be heard on some 140 recordings in arrangements for guitar, violin, voice, and in its original piano version, including by the composer himself. Nor does Peled have the field all to himself on cello. The piece has been recorded by Alban Gerhardt and Jamie Walton. One can easily appreciate the great popularity of the piece. Its guitar-like strumming accompaniment provides the underpinning for an alluring melody in the style of a seguidilla, a folksong or dance of Castillian origin. Bizet drew upon the seguidilla for his aria “Près des ramparts de Séville” in Carmen.

György Ligeti’s Sonata for Cello Solo has also received its fair share of recordings, one of which in particular, with Matt Haimovitz on Deutsche Grammophon, is especially noteworthy. Not unlike Paul Kletzki, the Jewish-Hungarian Ligeti (1923–2006) also suffered at the hands of both the Nazis and the Soviet Communists. The sonata heard here did not receive its first performance until 1983, but it’s an early work dating from the composer’s Hungarian period. In only two movements, its first was written in 1948, when Ligeti was 25; its second movement, five years later in 1953. The piece is clearly influenced by Bartók and Kodály. Glissando chords and pizzicato punctuate a melancholy “Dialogo,” marked adagio , followed by a moto perpetuo Capriccio, marked presto con slancio , a real test of the player’s mettle.

Bach’s F-Major Pastorella was originally composed as a four-movement suite for organ. Only its opening movement is heard here, but Bach recycled its concluding Gigue as the closing movement to the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3. According to the booklet note, this arrangement by Pablo Casals, in a handwritten score, was acquired by the Beaux Arts Trio’s cellist, Bernard Greenhouse, and from him passed to Peled.

Glazunov’s Chant du Ménéstrel (Troubadour’s Song) is almost as popular, if you count numbers of recordings, as the Granados Playera . Frankly, it’s little more than a sentimental salon piece that happens to have been made famous by Beatrice Harrison, the British cellist who had the distinction of being Elgar’s handpicked player to make the official HMV recording of the composer’s Cello Concerto under his direction.

When it comes to the Couperin Pièces en Concert , I wish I could cite its provenance definitively, but unfortunately, neither the CD’s track listing nor the booklet note identifies the specific set of suites whence it comes. Even more curiously, other recordings of the work, as well as other references to it, are equally silent on the subject. Finally, by searching for a combination of Couperin and Bazelaire, the work’s arranger, I hit upon a program note from the 2002 Tyalgum (New South Wales) Festival that asserts that Bazelaire’s arrangement is a mixed-movement compilation drawn from Couperin’s Nouveaux Concerts published in 1724.

If you check ArkivMusic’s listing for the Casals piece under its English title, Song of the Birds , you will find only this one recording by Peled. But there are a couple of others listed under its Spanish title, El Cant dels Ocells . I’d have expected more, including one by the renowned cellist himself. The piece is an arrangement of a traditional Catalan folk song, which embodies, in Peled’s words, “a spiritual communication.”

I’ve said nothing about the Mendelssohn or Fauré pieces because they’re so well known there’s nothing to say.

By all evidence, Amit Peled is a superb cellist. His technical prowess in the Davidoff and Ligeti vouchsafe that; and his tone, of pellucid purity, gleams with a glint of gold in the slow, lyrical numbers. As an introduction to the artistry of this fine up-and-coming young artist, this album showcases his versatility in a wide range of repertoire. But now that Peled has produced two CDs of what are essentially arrangements, encore pieces, and lighter fare—except for the Eccles and Ligeti sonatas—I look forward to hearing him in some of the more substantial repertoire for his instrument. Pianist Eliza Ching has a somewhat lesser role to play in some of these numbers, but she carries out her role as accompanist admirably. Recorded sound is excellent. Recommended for an hour’s worth of canapés to whet the appetite; now bring on the main course.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Songs (6), Op. 34: no 2, Auf Flügeln des Gesanges by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Eliza Ching (Piano), Amit Peled (Cello)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1836; Germany 
Venue:  Seventh-day Adventist Church, Spencervil 
Length: 3 Minutes 9 Secs. 
At the Fountain for cello & piano, Op 20/2 by Karl Davidov
Performer:  Amit Peled (Cello), Eliza Ching (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Venue:  Seventh-day Adventist Church, Spencervil 
Length: 4 Minutes 7 Secs. 
Sonata for cello & continuo in G minor by Henry Eccles
Performer:  Eliza Ching (Piano), Amit Peled (Cello)
Period: Baroque 
Venue:  Seventh-day Adventist Church, Spencervil 
Length: 9 Minutes 26 Secs. 
Danzas (12) españolas for Piano, Op. 37: no 5, Andaluza by Enrique Granados
Performer:  Amit Peled (Cello), Eliza Ching (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892-1900; Spain 
Venue:  Seventh-day Adventist Church, Spencervil 
Length: 3 Minutes 52 Secs. 
Elégie for Cello and Piano, Op. 24 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Amit Peled (Cello), Eliza Ching (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880; France 
Venue:  Seventh-day Adventist Church, Spencervil 
Length: 7 Minutes 0 Secs. 
Pièces en concert, for cello & string ensemble (arranged by Bazelaire) by François Couperin
Performer:  Amit Peled (Cello), Eliza Ching (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Venue:  Seventh-day Adventist Church, Spencervil 
Length: 10 Minutes 55 Secs. 
Sonata for Cello solo by György Ligeti
Performer:  Amit Peled (Cello), Eliza Ching (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1948-1953; Hungary 
Venue:  Seventh-day Adventist Church, Spencervil 
Length: 8 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Pastorale in F major, BWV 590: 3rd movement, Adagio by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Amit Peled (Cello), Eliza Ching (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1710; Weimar, Germany 
Venue:  Seventh-day Adventist Church, Spencervil 
Length: 4 Minutes 1 Secs. 
Chant du ménestrel for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 71 by Alexander Glazunov
Performer:  Amit Peled (Cello), Eliza Ching (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1900; Russia 
Venue:  Seventh-day Adventist Church, Spencervil 
Length: 4 Minutes 29 Secs. 
El cant del ocells by Pablo Casals
Performer:  Amit Peled (Cello), Eliza Ching (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1972 
Venue:  Seventh-day Adventist Church, Spencervil 
Length: 3 Minutes 22 Secs. 

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