Barber & Debussy
David Berlin - cello
Len Vorster - piano
$23 (Australian dollars)
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Tall Poppies is proud to release David Berlin’s debut recital CD, featuring some of the gems of 20th century cello repertoire. The Barber and Debussy sonatas are among the masterpieces for the instrument and the Bloch, Falla and Granados works are often heard in cello recitals.
Here is a chance to hear one of Melbourne’s best musicians as a soloist. David Berlin is well-known to Australian audiences as Principal Cello of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for over 20 years, and plays chamber music regularly in a variey of contexts.
Len Vorster is a Melbourne-based pianist/accompanist who teaches at Melbourne and Monash Universities and founded the Port Fairy Spring Music Festival. He and David have worked together on many occasions.
The recording was made in Melbourne at the National Academy of Music and was recorded by producer Peter Taplin.
|Samuel Barber ||Sonata in C minor, Op.6 |
|Ernest Bloch ||From Jewish Life:|
three pieces for cello and piano
|Manuel de Falla||Suite populaire espagnole |
|Claude Debussy||Sonata |
|This CD was nominated by James McCarthy as one of the best classical CDs of 2011 in Limelight. "An eclectic and absorbing selection of top chamber works, illuminated by excellent Australian performances."|
Everything about this programme and its recording offers a first class experience.
The work of these two fine Australian players stands more than happily beside the Armenian and Russian artists on the other two CDs reviewed separately. Factors of balance and production so often affect enjoyment of cello/piano recordings. Producers Peter Taplin and Alex Stinson have been perfect collaborators. Yes, perfect, with Berlin's cello heard through thick and thin.
From the friendly and honest mood of reason that follows the black and stormy 'greeting' of the 1932 Barber Sonata's opening I felt that the five composers would all be in good hands. Berlin's 1982 cello by Ivan Zgradic, California, produces all that is asked of it. Len Vorster's ear allows us to savour the cello's sound and beautiful playing beside the wide range of his own seamless work. This CD was heard straight through in one sitting by an absolutely relaxed listener. The beautiful gravitas of Bloch is present. In the six (of seven) Falla pieces (1915) I found a highlight among the many on this disc: the gently exotic Nana - so delightful that I repeated it immediately. Proper pizzicato throughout from rasp-free fingers are always welcome in Debussy, with sparkling piano in this sonata as well. Berlin's playing in the songful elements of all these works would I am sure, make these composers thankful for these two musicians.
Graeme Skinner's excellent notes match everything else and Belinda Webster must be gratified by the whole result. It is good to see this CD on the Tall Poppies list in Presto Classical's site. We should wish it well there.
© Robert Miller
Stringendo Volume 33 / Number 2 / October 2011
The strong contrast in compositional styles helps to make this excellent collection a delight. David Berlin and Len Vorster deliver the music superbly, with dazzling playing of the highest order. Along with Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber was the composer who did the most to secure the place of American composition during the middle of the 20th century. His award-winning Cello Sonata is a compelling work in which his musical ideas are strong and well presented. The effective contrast with Bloch's From Jewish Life (1924) is dramatic. This is Jewish music par excellence, and its distinctive character, the voice of the cantor, resonates throughout the work. In Suite populaire espagnole by Manuel de Falla, we have another strong contrast with the other works. After the troubled voice of Bloch's cantor, the sunny, invigorating music of Spain is dramatic. The six sections of the work run the gamut of the composer's accessible style. Staying In Spain, Madrigal (1915) by Enrique Granados, has more in common with Bloch's piece. Based on one of his songs, it is a passionately wrought aria for cello. It was also one of the last things he wrote before he drowned. Toward the end of Debussy's life, the composer tried to re-establish a Iink back to classical French composition. One work exploring this theme was the Cello Sonata - an energetic piece in which you will look in vain for the Debussy of Prélude a l'après-midi d'un faune. It requires great technical skill and these performers come through with flying colours.
JM Limelight June 2011
Australia's multicultural milieu has been enriched by the work of musicians such as Jerusalem-born cellist David Berlin and pianist Len Vorster, born in South Africa and an Australian since 1983, who perform on this CD. It highlights Tall Poppies' commitment to recording Australian classical artists and its commissioning of more than 50 new compositions over its 19 years, although no new works feature on this program of five pieces from the mid- 20th century.
Berlin and Vorster form a close musical duo as they weave the varying moods of Sonata in C minor opus 6 by Samuel Barber. They draw exotic flavours in Manuel de Falla's Suite populaire espagnole, the plaintive Madrigal by Enrique Granados and they distil the clear essence of Sonata for cello and piano by which the dying Claude Debussy wished to return French music to its distinctive roots after his perceived Germanisation of French compositions.
It is interesting, therefore, that the collection's piece de resistance by Ernest Bloch, Three Pieces for Cello and Piano - Prayer; Supplication; Jewish Song, written in 1924, was inspired by Old Testament writings to express "the venerable emotion of the race that slumbers way down in our soul". It was poignantly prophetic of the ignominious treatment about to befall the Jewish people in the coming decade.
This dramatic and tragic layer in the music is powerfully etched by these two insightful musicians.
Brisbane Courier Mail, March 2011
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