Amit Peled: The Peabody Cello Gang = Works by SCHUBERT; POPPER; HANDEL – Amit Peled, cello/ The Peabody Cello Gang/ Andrea Casarrubios, cello/ Eli Kalman and Hui-Chuan Chen, pianos – CTM 

Amit Peled and his students engage us in music of Schubert, Popper, and Handel.

Amit Peled: The Peabody Cello Gang = SCHUBERT: Arpeggione Sonata in a minor, D. 821; POPPER: Requiem, OP. 66; HANDEL: Sonata for 2 Cellos in g minor, Op. 2, No. 8 – Amit Peled, cello/ The Peabody Cello Gang/ Andrea Casarrubios, cello/ Eli Kalman and Hui-Chuan Chen, pianos – CTM Classics   50:07 (10/27/17) [www.amitpeled.com] ****:

Israeli cellist Amit Peled sports the 1733 Goffriler instrument that formerly belonged to Pablo Casals, and he relishes the mission to spread the “Casals sound” globally.  Peled’s association with fellow cellists Bernard Greenhouse and Boris Pergamenschikow gave birth to the idea of assembling Peled’s own students into a chest of players who perform special arrangements for cello ensemble.

Peled and his Cello Gang—of three other cellos—open with Schubert’s 1824 Arpeggione Sonata, virtually the only extant composition for this instrumental curio, a hybrid of bowed guitar with frets. A consort of cellos plays the bass line while Peled sails along with the lovely Allegro moderato.  The middle movement, an Adagio in E Major, serves as a transition ot the A Major Allegretto finale. Melodious and seamlessly intimate, the work more than “survives” this treatment and occasionally glows with buoyant energy. The recording from 7 June 2017 enjoys a lush and poignant sonority.

Photograph of Amit Peled, cellist and Johns Hopkins Professor at the Peadbody Institute on 10/28/14

Czech cello virtuoso David Popper (1843-1913) studied at the Prague Conservatory and evolved into the most celebrated cellist of the 19th Century, having befriended such luminaries as Brahms, Liszt, Wagner, and Bruckner. Popper’s Op. 66 Requiem for Three Cellos and Piano (1892) bears a dedication to the memory of his friend and first Hamburg publisher, Daniel Rahter. With an expanded cello group and piano, the Requiem (rec. 6 October 2009) assumes a lofty scale, with a melodic line that bears some shape with Schubert’s Ave Maria.  Eli Kalman does the keyboard honors, which bear pearly figures and staccato chords. A secondary tune, bucolic and agitated, adds a more dramatic component. The music drifts into a hazy nostalgia and fades away.

Handel’s Sonata for Two Cellos in g minor (c. 1719) concludes the program. In four movements, the work (rec. 2 May 2014) embodies the church-sonata format typical of the period. The stately Andante leads to a spirited Allegro  in brisk figures, and both cello alternate in rapid antiphons while pianist Hui-Chuan Chen has her hands full. As per expectation, Handle has his most refined moment in the ardent Largo movement. Peled and Casarrubios blend in smooth, plaintive harmony in long-breathed phrases. The final Allegro enjoys a robust swagger, with canonic entries from the strings then moving unisono and back and forth. The trio-sonata sonority proves effective, especially as captured in the crisp sonics, courtesy of Recording Engineer Mark Wiley. Until the audience clapped, we were not aware of the “live” performance.

–Gary Lemco

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