This disk contains some of the finest, and strongest, most purposeful, cello playing I’ve heard in a long time. Indeed, so forthright is the playing, and so intense her interpretations, that I was immediately reminded of the young Jacqueline du Pré. Ms Beer can stand that somewhat extravagant comment for she proves it with every note she plays.
I’ve always regarded Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne as a piece of his neo–baroque nonsense and not really worthy of my attention. I must now reconsider my position for here it turns up fresh and alive, the notes jumping off the page in every bar in this spry and very vivacious account. The Introduction and Finale provide fine examples of Ms Beer’s strong bowing arm, while the Serenata is as cool as a mountain stream. The Aria is one long melody from beginning to end and Ms Beer lavishes all her romantic attention on it only to dispel the mood of love with a sparkling Tarantella .
Debussy’s Sonata is one of the joys of the cello repertoire; it’s elusive and magical and a towering masterpiece of the genre. Debussy originally wanted to call the piece Pierrot fait fou avec la lune ( Pierrot angry with the moon ) and there’s a lot of railing in the work – albeit tempered by the writing for the instruments and the material used. Listen to the way Ms Beer phrases the opening fanfare idea at 2:15 after emerging from a short passage of accompaniment to the piano; absolutely well placed and as exciting as anything on this disk. The pizzicato scherzo is hesitant and mysterious, while the finale romps along in good humour. This Pierrot certainly isn’t angry with the moon, he is truly reveling in the moonlight!
Brahms’s Second Sonata immediately follows the Fourth Symphony and is built in the same mould, in blocks of granite but with a melodic heart of gold. Beer’s treatment of the work is both bold and delicately lyrical – just listen to how she phrases the trio of the third movement Scherzo, and how she is happy to take a step backwards and allow the piano to take the lead. And marvel at their handling of the scherzo section itself, it’s very modern in its approach but also very Brahmsian. This is superb stuff and thrilling music making. The slow movement is very well paced, the lyricism soaring from Beer’s cello, full bowed and full of the singing quality which is unique to the instrument, whilst her pizzicato accompaniment to the piano is beautifully discreet and well placed. The finale has a lovely easy going feel to it and the tempo is perfect for it allows the music to speak clearly. This is a fine performance.
Morricone’s Gabriel’s Oboe , from his soundtrack score for The Mission , is a delightful encore piece, unpretentious and charming, and a real pleasure after the hothouse music making which precedes it.
The recording is bright and clear with a very good balance between the instruments. It was a real pleasure to report on this disk for everything about it – performance, recording etc – commands our attention. Suzanne Beer is a fine artist and we should hear much more of her.
(Recording of the month, February 2009)