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Cello Heroics Iii: Saint-saens

Saint-saens / Sinfonia Varsovia / Lipkind / Hermus
Release Date: 09/27/2011 
Label:  Lipkind   Catalog #: 11   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Gavriel Lipkind
Conductor:  Antony Hermus
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sinfonia Varsovia
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SAINT-SAËNS Cello Concerto No. 1 Gavriel Lipkind (vc); Anthony Hermus, cond; Sinfonia Varsovia LIPKIND PRODUCTIONS H03 (22:36)

This is one of three CDs featuring cellist Gavriel Lipkind in a series of releases titled Cello Heroics , a proprietary logo of Lipkind Productions, to be distributed by Naxos. In the pop music industry, recordings like this, I believe, are referred to as “singles,” indicating a short-playing disc containing just one song. In Read more the classical domain, such discs are rare, and though as of this writing I haven’t seen any of the CDs in this series listed and have no idea of how they’ll be priced when they are, I do have a reservation regarding the format. Since the advent of the CD, classical-record collectors have become accustomed to long-playing programs of up to 80 minutes or more. What the market is in the classical realm for discs containing just one work and playing times of fewer than 30 minutes I simply don’t know. I suspect, however, that they might have a good deal of success if made available for downloading and/or streaming.

Reviewing Lipkind’s Bach suites in Fanfare 33:5, Jens Laurson noted the cellist’s “stunningly beautiful virtuosity” and found much to admire in Lipkind’s playing. Though I haven’t heard his Bach, I can say that Lipkind’s performance of Saint-Saëns’s popular A-Minor Cello Concerto is a real ear-opener. One becomes jaded hearing such a frequently played work, especially when it’s one that has been often regarded as a fluff piece. But Lipkind impresses, not just in his technical command, which is quite awesome, but in his ability to direct our attention to subtle felicities in the score that are usually glossed over. For example, right at 1:52 in the first movement, he stabs at the accent in a way that pre-echoes the shiver in the orchestra that follows shortly thereafter. In fact, Lipkind and conductor Antony Hermus enter into a more intimate dialogue than I think I’ve ever heard in this piece, anticipating and mirroring each other’s articulation of phrasing and dynamics in a way that, quite frankly, makes Saint-Saëns’s lightweight concerto sound more serious and more significant than it probably is.

I very much like the way that Lipkind and Hermus refuse to treat this score as little more than a virtuosic display vehicle for the cello. There are lovely touches of delicate orchestration, especially in the Sugar Plum Fairy minuet marked Allegretto where the muted strings play divisi and the cello enters over them crooning and swooning its swan song 14 years before Saint-Saëns hatched his famous swan piece for cello in The Carnival of the Animals.

Poland’s Sinfonia Varsovia, made prominent by Yehudi Menuhin, sounds as if it were customized to play this concerto with Lipkind, interacting with the soloist in a true chamber-orchestra partnership. One curiosity in the listing of the orchestra’s roster of players in the accompanying booklet is a note indicating that a celesta player was hired for this recording. A quick glance at Saint-Saëns’s orchestration shows scoring for a fairly standard complement of instruments—two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, strings, and timpani—but no celesta. It turns out that the same notes are duplicated in Lipkind’s Schumann and Shostakovich albums, but the Shostakovich concerto is the only one that does in fact call for a celesta. All that changes from one album to another is the page that addresses the particular work on each disc. In place of a jewel case, one gets a heavy cardboard outer casing that opens like a book with a booklet printed on good sturdy stock glued into it.

To be sure, there’s a bit of self-promotion involved in these productions. The same notes authored by the cellist and by Andrea Kleibel quoting reviews that extol the cellist’s virtues appear in all three albums, and the CDs are self-produced. But none of this is intended pejoratively. In the end, it’s the music and the artist’s playing of it that matter, and for Saint-Saëns’s ever popular A-Minor Cello Concerto, I know of no one who plays it better than Gavriel Lipkind.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Cello no 1 in A minor, Op. 33 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Gavriel Lipkind (Cello)
Conductor:  Antony Hermus
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sinfonia Varsovia
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1872; France 
Venue:  Witold Lutoslawski Concert Hall of the P 
Length: 22 Minutes 35 Secs. 

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