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SAINT-SAENS: Cello Concerto No. 1 in a; LALO: Cello Concerto in d; FAURE: Elegy in c – Kim Cook, cello/ Philharmonica Bulgarica/ Valeri Vatchev, Grigor Palikarov – MSR Classics

SAINT-SAENS: Cello Concerto No. 1 in a, Op. 33; LALO: Cello Concerto in d; FAURE: Elegy in c, Op. 24 – Kim Cook, cello/ Philharmonica Bulgarica/ Valeri Vatchev, Grigor Palikarov – MSR Classics MS 1512, 59:08 [Distr. by Albany] ****:

I was delighted with Kim Cook’s renditions of the Tchaikovsky Variations and the Shostakovich Concerto No. 1 on the MSR label six years ago.

This new recording of three cello staples continues the good effort; indeed, the Saint-Saens and Lalo have become joined at the hip in the minds of many record lovers since they are so often paired together. Both pieces were composed in the 1870s, and both were part of what we now know as the French “revival”—though both would be considered somewhat anachronistic in a matter of a few years, at least by the supporters of Debussy and others. Gabriel Faure, another composer who reacted to some of the approaching trends in modern music while simultaneously forging his own somewhat modernist path—there is no one who sounds quite like him, with his clarity of line and highly-charged sense of restraint—shows his Elegy as a miniature study of just these foundational aspects of his art.

The fact that there are two conductors on this disc doesn’t matter a whit—the Bulgarian orchestra and Cook herself are of one mind on all interpretative aspects of this music, and the playing is a sparkling reading of passion, concision, and beauty in fine sound. There are many great performers who have tackled this music, among the first people like Janos Starker in recordings now remastered for SACD—I would not want to be without those. But Cook has a fresh appeal and brings considerable talent to these readings, well worth your attention.

—Steven Ritter

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