Catalan Cello Works
Dimitry Yablonsky (cello), Laia Martín (piano)
rec. 2021/2022, Vila-seca, Spain
Naxos 8.579097

That Catalunya (or Catalonia as the English-speaking world refers to the region) should have produced a wealth of works written for the cello in the last years of the Nineteenth Century and the first half of the next century was, of course, largely due to the example and influence of one man – the great cellist Pablo Casals or, to give him his Catalan name, Pau Casals. Of the twelve works on this disc, three are by Casals himself and two by his most important Catalan student, Gaspar Cassadó.

There is a lot to enjoy here, whether or not you share my special fondness for the many varieties of Spanish music. The very first work on the disc, Cassadó’s Requiebros (‘Compliments’), is full of attractive melody, often with some attractive decoration thereof, and some more robustly passionate passages, all of which express a warm admiration (or should one say ‘love’?) of an unnamed dedicatee /recipient. Elsewhere, the same composer’s Sonata nello stile antico spagnuolo – not so personal a piece – is graced by fine cello cadenzas, while reworking (with some freedom) motifs and styles from the earlier history of Spanish music. This is a fascinating musical ‘retrospect’, fusing ancient and modern. This piece was new to me, and I am glad to have had such an accomplished introduction to it. Here – and elsewhere – Moscow-born cellist Dmitry Yablonsky is utterly convincing in this very Spanish music as is his colleague, the Spanish pianist Laia Martín. A further delight comes in the form of Casals’ Romanza, a richly evocative piece full of imagination, which also includes a beautiful meditative passage for the piano.

Although the works just discussed are arguably the highlights of the disc, every other work played here also offers things that reward the listener. There is, for example, a delightful account (in a first recording) of ‘Quejas o la maja y el ruiseñor’ from Book I of Granados’ Goyescas, in an arrangement made by Frank Marshall, a pupil of Granados.

Also very attractive (though less than two minutes long) is the tribute to Mompou by Benet Casablancas, both composer and dedicatee being Catalans. This piece explores – in intriguing fashion – the extreme registers of the two instruments.

Listening to this disc evokes memories of Catalonia and the characterful towns found beyond the beaches of the Costa Brava or the hectic world of Barcelona. A town such as Girona, for example, the barri vell (old quarter) of which contains a fine cathedral, interesting museums of Art and Archaeology and a rewarding walk along the old city walls, as well as cafes and bars full of Catalan tradition.

Glyn Pursglove

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Gaspar Cassadó (1897-1966)

Requiebros (1931)
Enrique Granados (1867-1916)

Madrigal in A minor (1915)
Danza gallega
Pablo Casals (1876-1973)

Romanza for Cello and Piano (1899)
Enrique Granados

‘Quejas o la maja y el ruiseñor’ (1911), arr. Frank Marshall*.
Gaspar Cassadó

Sonata nello stile antico spagnuolo (1925)
Benet Casablancas (b.1956)
Cant per a Frederic Mompou, ‘Remembrança’ (1993)
Federico Mompou (1893-1987)

La Filla del carmesi – Danse de Castellterçol
Pablo Casals

Enrique Granados

‘Intermezzo’ from Goyescas (1915)
* World premiere recordings.