BRAHMS: Double Concerto in A Minor; BLOCH: Schelomo -Hebraic Rhapsody; TCHAIKOVSKY: Rococo Variations – Leslie Parnas, cello/ Yehudi Menuhin, violin/ Casals Festival Orchestra/ Pablo Casals, conductor/ North German Radio Orchestra/ Antal Dorati – Doremi

by | Sep 4, 2006 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

BRAHMS: Double Concerto in A Minor, Op. 102; BLOCH: Schelomo -Hebraic Rhapsody; TCHAIKOVSKY: Rococo Variations, Op. 33 – Leslie Parnas, cello/ Yehudi Menuhin, violin/ Casals Festival Orchestra/ Pablo Casals, conductor/ North German Radio Orchestra/ Antal Dorati (Bloch)/ The London Mozart Players/ Gervase de Peyer (Tchaikovsky)

Doremi DHR-7844, 73:28 (Distrib. Allegro) ****:

A lovely tribute to the under-rated American cellist Leslie Parnas (b. 1931) provides the rubric for this excellent restoration, of which the Brahms A Minor Concerto (29 May 1969) is especially welcome. Led by a fiery Pablo Casals, who had himself inscribed the work with Thibaud under Alfred Cortot, the performance is both elegant and affectionate, with Parnas‚ having been principal cellist of the Casals Festival for fourteen years. Yehudi Menuhin is in top form, certainly less overtly weeping in his tone, which is steady and full-throated. Parnas is quite forward in the recording, and we can hear his middle and index finger strikes on the fingerboard. His phrasing is sheer perfection in the duets with Menuhin, and they both rise to the recapitulation in a blaze of glory. Nothing other than Herculean is Casals‚ own contribution to the tiutti part, magisterial and dramatic.

The parts of the Andante that resemble a wind serenade blend effectively with the two soli, and, excepting the outbursts from the cello, the music proceeds bucolically and mellifluously forward. Parnas’ cello tone, gleaned from his mentor Piatagorsky, projects an ardent beauty. The last movement is a heavily accented Hungarian rondo, with Menuhin adding tiny inflections to up the gypsy ante. Often, the texture becomes symphonic with violin/cello obbligato. Nice tympani at the recap for the ritornello played with flute and oboe. French horn work at the extended coda adds a slick polish to a performance of magnitude and poetic power.

Bloch’s Schelomo Rhapsody (13 January 1975) pairs Parnas with veteran Antal Dorati from Hamburg, Germany. Alternately exotic and declamatory, the music evokes a prophet’s voice in the desert where, according to W.B. Yeats, fly “indignant desert birds.” Parnas applies significant force to his cello part, met with equal colors from snare drum, trumpets, winds, harp, and percussion. The Romanesque texture several times echoes Bloch’s own Violin Concerto. Exemplary trumpet work, perhaps in this context, a cry from old Judea protesting the fate of the Chosen People in Germany. A resonant oboe assumes sacerdotal robes. Rapid shifts in cello registration from Parnas do not diminish the vocal sonority of his plaint. Dorati ushers in a terrific momentum, the intensity threatening to overwhelm us all. The tympani part rivals anything in Richard Strauss, whose Salome may well have inspired the purple passages in this score. Parnas and harp combine to inspire Dorati to hold onto some phrase lengths in the manner of Celibidache, unwontedly anti-literalist of Dorati.

Tchaikovsky’s gentle Rococo Variations (1973) with clarinet virtuoso Gervase de Peyer at the helm of the London Mozart Players comes as a sweet tonic after the darkly brooding Bloch Rhapsody. Parnas lays out the four-square tune in breezy strokes, with the winds and strings answering with balletic grace. The variations unfold en divertissement, nimbly and elegantly. When Parnas can extend the vocal melody, an instrumental pas de deux ensues of poignant beauty. Peyer brings a deft litheness worthy of Lambert or Weldon to bear for the accompaniment, some of which could have been lifted from Swan Lake. Some crackle in the tapes detracts from a sterling inscription. The solo work indicates what a set of Bach Suites might signify from Parnas. Heart-pounding coda work from all participants makes this connoisseur’s collaboration a natural collectible.

— Gary Lemco