Notes and Editorial Reviews
Cello Sonata in g. Introduction and Polonaise Brilliante. Nocturnes: in E?,
Grand Duo Concertante. Etudes: in d,
Antony Cooke (vc); Armin Watkins (pn)
CENTAUR 2956 (71:44)
Homage to Chopin,
this disc combines two pieces actually written by Chopin for the cello, five transcriptions of nocturnes and etudes, and a really unusual piece, a “grand duo” on themes from Meyerbeer’s colorful operatic fantasy
Robert le Diable,
written by Chopin and Auguste-Joseph Franchomme, a French cellist-composer and friend of the Polish composer. It’s a heck of a Chopin fest no matter how you look at it.
And, of course, the question always is, how do you approach these works? As French music (Chopin’s adopted country), with its suave rubato and
? Or as Slavic music (reflecting Chopin’s home country), with its dark colors and passionate moods? Cooke and Watkins have most definitely chosen Plan B, and I think they’ve chosen well. Except for the always-gorgeous Nocturne op. 9, No. 2, where I really do miss some of the elegant schmaltz (however out of date it is) of the Bronislaw Huberman version on violin, their style is completely apropos to the music.
In the Introduction and Polonaise Brillante, Cooke chooses to play it straight rather than co-opt the piano’s flight into the upper register that Emanuel Feuermann did so boldly, and so well, on his famous 1939 Victor recording. Yes, I miss it, flashy though it was, but Cooke is awfully good nonetheless. Like so many of today’s cellists, in fact like almost all of them, he has a fat, dark, burnished tone, excellent bowing technique, and a particularly good trill.
The Chopin-Franchomme collaboration is one of those 19th-century pastiches so popular with audiences and pianists, professional and amateur. Of course, much of this music was too difficult for most amateur pianists to play themselves, especially the convoluted Liszt transcriptions (like
another collaboration-pastiche, and his piano reductions of the Beethoven symphonies), but that didn’t always stop them from trying. Since we today barely know a note of
Robert le Diable
unless we collect archival records by such singers as Emmy Destinn, Berthe Augez de Montalant, Paul Aumonier, Edmond Clément, and Léon Escalaïs, this piece will have little resonance with us as performance nostalgia, which it most certainly had for its 1840s audience, but it’s a fun piece that Cooke plays with particular relish.
The recital ends with three more transcriptions, two etudes arranged by Alexander Glazunov and the op. 72 Nocturne arranged by Alexander Taneyev, each played with a delicious combination of care and abandon. This is, quite simply, an enjoyable disc that lovers of Chopin and the cello will want to hear.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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