Tag Archives: Debussy


Susi 018_2Susanne Beer (1) 

Susanne Beer (cello)

Gareth Hancock (piano)

TPT: 59’46”

divine art dda25068

reviewed by Neville Cohn


Stravinsky: Suite Italienne; Debussy: Sonata for cello and piano; Brahms: Sonata for cello and piano opus 99; Morricone: Gabriel’s Oboe


On the first page of the score of Suite Italienne, in the space to the right just above the first line of music, appears the name Igor Stravinsky. I dare say some might assume, without question, that the music is by the famed creator of ballet scores such as Petrouchka, Firebird and Rite of Spring. To me, his name on the page is an artistic fraud. The delightful, charm-laden melodies of Suite Italienne are not in even the remotest sense the product of a man who, for all his genius, had great difficulty in creating memorable melodies. (He was in good company here; Beethoven, for instance, struggled for novel melody unlike, say, Schubert whose melodic gift was like an unstoppable torrent).


So, Stravinksy stole melodies – yes, stole – in the sense of purloining what did not belong to him from composers who could not fight back because they were long dead. Then, Stravinsky rewrote their delightful pieces – primarily by Pergolesi – and ensured there were a number of dissonances to make it sound ‘modern’ (although Stravinsky retained most of the original harmonies) and then raked in a bucket of money in the form of royalties. He got a good deal of mileage out of his pilfered goods with at least two suites from the ballet for violin and piano as well as this version for cello and piano.


There’s a splendid lift to the phrase in the Introduction – and in the following Serenata, Susanne Beer draws a fine ribbon of sound from her instrument, all the while informing the music with the most engaging lilt. There’s excellent double stopping here. Beer and her attentive piano partner Gareth Hancock bring an altogether appropriate sense of bucolic gruffness to the Aria and, in the Tarantella, set and maintain a spanking pace with a fine sense of onward momentum. It makes for bracing listening. Yet again, tone is excellent from both musicians, splendidly apparent in the rhythmic gusto they bring to the Finale.


Beer and Hancock are no less persuasive in Debussy’s Sonata, sounding equally convincing in stylistic terms in both turbulent and musing measures in the first movement. The Serenade and Finale make no less rewarding listening, much of it couched in passionate terms with eerie pizzicato conjuring up images of goblinesque cavortings. At the time of writing this work, Debussy was already in the grip of an unstoppable cancer – but his creativity here is at its highest, an act of wonderful creative defiance in the face of impending doom.


Brahms’ Sonata is given a model performance which comfortably holds its own against most of the competition. I very much admired the skill with which the players convey the essence of the slow movement, allowing the music to speak for itself. And the manner in which the restless demon lurking behind the printed note of the Allegro passionato is revealed is masterly.


 Morricone’s Gabriel’s Oboe is given nostalgia-drenched treatment.

Reflections in the Water ELOQUENCE – AROMATHERAPY series

Handel, Debussy, Johann Strauss II, Ravel, Vivaldi, Smetana, Chopin, Schubert, Tchaikowsky, Delius
various instrumentalists and orchestras

DECCA 466 705-2
TPT 1:14: 33

reviewed by Neville Cohn 

If you’ve come home stressed after a day in the salt mines, this compilation might well work wonders. Put your feet up, place slices of cold cucumber over your eyes, take the phone off the hook and lose yourself in some of the most soothing music ever written. Each of the fourteen tracks has some association with water in various states. Feel the tension in your neck muscles lessen as you listen to Jorge Bolet in Liszt’s arrangement for piano of Schubert’s lied Auf dem Wasser zu singen. Unhurried, glowing-toned, haunting, it’s beyond conventional criticism. So, too, is Pascal Roge. He is magical in Debussy’s Reflections in the Water with its rippling, filigree-delicate arabesques. And in the most famous of all works inspired by microscopic molecules consisting each of two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen – Handel’s Water Music – Sir Neville Marriner and his Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields lavish care on three extracts from the suite. The Hornpipe is particularly pleasing; it bristles with pomp. Also included are The Blue Danube, an excerpt from Swan Lake, Ravel’s Jeux d’eau, Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude and Delius’ Aquarelle No 2. Drawn from recordings made between 1968 and 1981, sound quality is uniformly fine – in this sense, the recordings have worn well – apart from some slight distortion in string tone in the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s account of Smetana’s Ma Vlast.