Russian Music for Cello & Piano (CD review)

Music of Miaskovsky, Scriabin, Schnittke, Prokofiev, and Rachmaninov. Wendy Warner, cello; Irina Nuzova, piano. Cedille CDR 90000 120.

Fans of Cedille Records don't need me to tell them that three major elements characterize the company's products: (1) Music that performers don't often play in public and other companies don't often record but which otherwise can hold keen interest for listeners; (2) artists who are not always as well known to the public as musicians pushed by the bigger labels, musicians who are, nevertheless, of the highest calibre; and (3) sound quality of an excellence you wouldn't expect from a small, independent record company. This latest release, Russian Music for Cello & Piano, exemplifies everything that is good about Cedille.

The program begins with the Sonata No. 2 in A minor for Cello and Piano by Nikolai Miaskovsky (1881-1950), which Miaskovsky completed in 1949 and dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich. It's a lovely, lyrical, slightly melancholy, endlessly gracious piece of music, its three movements creating a single beguiling effect. After that is the √Čtude No. 8 for Piano Solo (1894) by Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915), here in a transcription for piano and cello. It is also gentle and faintly melancholy, representative, no doubt, of the deeply moody Russian soul. The Musica Nostalgica for Cello and Piano (1992) by Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998) comes next, a brief piece that pays tribute to the eighteen-century minuet form in a kind of tongue-in-cheek manner. The little Adagio from the ballet Cinderella (1945) by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) follows, a waltz transcription the composer made himself. Finally, the program ends with the Sonata in G Minor for Cello and Piano (1901) by Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943), the longest work on the disc, its four movements thoughtful, complex, and expansive as Rachmaninov can often be. The Andante is particularly appealing.

The performing duet of Wendy Warner on cello and Irina Nuzova on piano play as all good partnerships should, as one. In their case, it's almost as if one performer were playing both instruments, they are so attuned to one another's feeling and responses. The two women, who have been performing together as the WarnerNuzova cello and piano duo since 2008, play with style, with grace, with refinement, and with deep emotional attachment, yet always placing the music above any showmanship on their part. Most important, however, they appear to reach into the heart of this heart-wrenching music and convey its inner spirit with not only clarity and precision but with ultimate passion. They are consummate artists.

Cedille, under producer James Ginsburg and engineer Bill Maylone, recorded the album in October, 2008. As always with this company, the results are realistically natural, warmly detailed, and profoundly satisfying.

JJP

1 comment:

  1. John: Readers who are looking to acquire this CD should know that it will be released August 31. It's also available for pre-order at Amazon.com. Thank you for your astute assessment of the WarnerNuzova duo's debut recording and for your attention to small labels like Cedille.

    ReplyDelete

John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

I've been listening to classical music most of my life, starting with the classical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first classical recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor. Today, I'm retired from teaching and using a pair of VMPS RM40s. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (moviemet.com, formerly DVDTOWN) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

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