Here’s another CD that finds its repertoire via common theme rather than the more usual composer, or form (cross-references, below). The result is a disc filled with music from five very different composers who all can—in one way or another—match the album’s title, “Folklore”.
In the talented hands of cellist Denise Djokic and pianist David Jalbert, excellence in performance is a virtual certainty.
Everything kicks of with Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Six Studies in English Folk Song. “Lovely on the Water” is at once dreamy and graceful with delicately executed grace notes by both performers. The harmonic excursions add much colour, while Djokic’s singular soar to the stratosphere is memorable. Role changing is a feature of “Spurn Point” where Djokic answers Jalbert’s call with equally mournful empathy. “Van Dieman’s Land” has a compelling hymn-like quality; the ensemble is perfect; the tierce di Picardie as welcome as it is predictable. The second dream of the set marvellously appears in “She Borrowed Some of her Mother’s Gold”, a touch conversational and with a decidedly Brahmsian end. The German master would also approve of “The Lady and the Dragon”, another gentle lullaby that oozes “all is well”. “As I Walked Over London Bridge” is the most exciting of the lot. Djokic and Jalbert toss off its technical challenges with deceptive ease.
Igor Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite comes in many sets of clothes. This one for cello and piano (prompted and assisted by cellist Gregor Piatigorsky) is well worth a listen. An infective feeling of jauntiness and fun (especially in the dotted rhythms) makes “Intoducione” a worthy starter—the only quibble being a few moments where the forward direction seems a tad stilted. “Serenata” allows Djokic to truly sing with empathy and passion even as Jalbert supports every line (and offers a few of his own). Superb bow control and double stops are the icing on this wondrous cake. The “Aria” is compelling from the get-go; truly a Contrasts ‘R’ Us movement featuring portamenti to slide for! As usual, the “Tarantella” has an underscored “Catch me if you can” construction; see/hear for yourselves if they do. The concluding “Minuetto and Finale” offers a sense of stately reverence in the former then, after intensifying dramatically, a heroic farewell in the latter. Still the ear misses the brilliance of the trumpet from the original suite.
What better way for Robert Schumann to break out of his depression/writer’s block with Five Pieces in the Popular Style. Be ye not deceived: the music deserves to be popular but is no way any distance from the composer’s genius. At times rustic, lyrical, burbling with contrasts (harmonic, melodic and rhythmical), energetic then rhapsodic, this work is the gem of the set both compositionally and artistically as rendered.
No one is too old or too young for the allure of fairy tales including Leos Janáček (Phohádka, 1910—his only creation for cello and piano). “Con moto” sets the narrative stage with a Q&A that contrasts legato with pizzicato, frequent role exchanges and, finally, some sort of mutual resolution. Likewise, “Con moto II” lifts off “short and pizz” only to relax somewhat into push and pull. The quote from Brahms—intentional or not—can only add to the otherworldliness of the result. Then the closing “Allegro” exudes optimistic and joyful declamations from both performers. Thank goodness, in this day and age, for a happy ending at last!
Djokic is left on her own to close out this folk-based compilation with a stirring rendition of cellist/composer Gaspar Cassadó’s Suite for Cello Solo. There’s a most dramatic, powerful opening to “Prelude – Fantasia” that is most notable for the soloist’s exquisite phrasing, continuous sense of direction and expert employment of “weight/wait”. “Sardana – Danza” begs the question, “Shall we?” and the answer is a definite yes. All that’s lacking is a choreographer…(hint!). Similarly, the totally energizing opening of “Intermezzo e Danza Finale” effortlessly shifts between legato, pizzicato and a multitude of registers, begging the musical question, “What comes next?” Listen for yourself and you won’t be disappointed. JWR