On the first playing of the recently arrived CD, Russian Music for Cello and Piano by the duo of cellist Wendy Warner and pianist Irina Nuzova (WarnerNuzova), I immediately thought of that old wedding saying:
Something old, something new,
Something borrowed, something blue.
Well, it’s a stretch, I admit, but it does serve a point.
Something old, something new
I call the final Rachmaninov work on the recording “something old” merely because it has been such a familiar piece for me over the years and a work that has been extensively and lovingly recorded on numbers of occasions. I am speaking, of course, of the Sonata in G minor for Cello and Piano, Op. 19. In this case, its familiarity is welcomed. Rachmaninov strove, for obvious reasons, to give the two instruments equal voices. The recording does an amazing job of carrying through on the idea of a true duet, rather than a cello sonata with piano accompaniment.
On the other hand, the opening work on the CD is “something new” for me, the Nikolai Miaskovsky Sonata No. 2 in A Minor for Cello and Piano, Op. 81. This is, apparently, the first American recording and it is a joy for listeners. This late work written in 1948-49 (Miaskovsky died in 1950) is a throwback to the lyrical tonality of the late 19th Century Romantic era. As expected, given the work’s dedication to cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, the cello dominates throughout, but without demand for attention. The piano does come forward a bit in the third Allegro con spirito movement, driving a energizing tempo.
Something borrowed, something blue
Cellist Gregor Piatigorsky borrowed Scriabin’s Etude, Op. 8, No. 11, for this intriguing and pleasant transcription for cello and piano. “Something blue” turns out to be the Alfred Schnittke Musica Nostalgia for Violoncello and Piano from 1992. I say “blue” in the sense of sardonic sadness with swipes of mocking humor thrown in for good measure.
One of the very first things one notices on this recording is the bright presence of the instruments, particularly Warner’s cello. This is not a negative, though, as the sonic quality is extremely descriptive, lends itself to voice-like phrasings, and carries the listener along. The diminution of the bass frequencies did leave me wondering what a live performance might sound like.
I’ll be checking this duo’s performance calendar. I recommend you do the same.