4 Cities: Cello Sonatas by Say, Debussy, Janacek, Shostakovich
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Cat No: 9029586724
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 3rd March 2017
WorksCello Sonata in D minor, L135
Pohadka (Fairy-tale), JWVII/5
Four Cities, sonata for cello and piano
Cello Sonata in D minor, op.40
ArtistsFazil Say (piano)
Nicolas Altstaedt (cello)
“4 Cities is a dive into the world of poetry, mysticism, into the history, the secrets and passions of the Orient.I have never been more fascinated exploring the miracles and the stories of people’s daily life challenging the limits of my own instrument. The cello is transformed into a flute, a fiddle, a percussion instrument until it becomes the voice of the people inviting us to a world that feels closer to us than ever before having encountered it through its music.” – Nicolas Alstaedt
1Say: Cello Sonata, 'Four Cities': I . Sivas
2Say: Cello Sonata, 'Four Cities': II. Hopa
3Say: Cello Sonata, 'Four Cities': III. Ankara
4Say: Cello Sonata, 'Four Cities': IV. Bodrum
5Debussy: Cello Sonata in D Minor, L. 135: No. 1 Prologue
6Debussy: Cello Sonata in D Minor, L. 135: No. 2 Serenade
7Debussy: Cello Sonata in D Minor, L. 135: No. 3 Final
8Janacek: Pohádka (Fairy Tale; 'The Story of Tsar Berendyey'), JW 7/5: No. 1 Con moto
9Janacek: Pohádka (Fairy Tale; 'The Story of Tsar Berendyey'), JW 7/5: No. 2 Con moto
10Janacek: Pohádka (Fairy Tale; 'The Story of Tsar Berendyey'), JW 7/5: No. 3 Allegro
11Janacek: Presto for cello & piano, JW 7/6
12Shostakovich: Cello Sonata in D Minor, Op. 40: No. 1 Allegro non troppo
13Shostakovich: Cello Sonata in D Minor, Op. 40: No. 2 Allegro
14Shostakovich: Cello Sonata in D Minor, Op. 40: No. 3 Largo
15Shostakovich: Cello Sonata in D Minor, Op. 40: No. 4 Allegro
The pair’s delight in timbral variety and tone colour infects the other work on the disc, too. Debussy’s Cello Sonata, written after a period of debilitating illness, has seldom benefited from such a range of light and shade, the commedia dell’arte-influenced Sérénade delivered with a real twinkle in the eye, every pizzicato note made to count, while the brilliant finale flows along with complete naturalness and telling rubato. Nor is it all show: there’s a tender reflectiveness to the central episode that is all the more effective for the contrast it provides with the outer sections.
In Janáček's Pohádka (Fairy-tale), based loosely on the same Russian folk story that Stravinsky uses in L’Oiseau de feu, Altsaedt and Say successfully reconcile the abundant, energetic surface detail with the wider-arching lyricism, a skill that still eludes many a performer of Janáček’s music. The central movement is again all delicate pizzicati, almost pointillist in places, but with real depth of feeling. After the buoyant final movement, the performers add an attractive bonus in the form of Janáček’s stirring but little-known Presto for the same instruments. Whether or not it was intended at some point as part of Pohádka, it makes a delightful pendant.
Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata may be less obviously colourful than the other works on the disc, but Altstaedt and Say bring to it a delicacy and subtlety of shading that is both welcome and completely beguiling. There is fullness of expression here without weightiness, speeds are generally brisk, and the more reflective passages in the long opening movement have never sounded more meltingly gorgeous. Other performances may bring out more of a demonic subtext in the second movement Allegro, but none have danced as much as this one, and the transparent cello harmonics in the ‘trio’ section are enchanting. After a searching account of the great Largo, the last movement wears its sardonic humour lightly, a youthful performance but one still underpinned by musical wisdom. The Shostakovich as a whole sets the seal on a remarkable recital from two exceptional musicians. Time will tell whether Altstaedt will join the ranks of the giants among cellists, but on the evidence of the present disc (atmospherically recorded in the Great Hall of Salzburg’s Mozarteum), the signs are extremely promising!
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