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Mischa Maisky & Pavel Gililov: "Morgen"

img  Tobias Fischer

The chamber music of Strauss and Dvořák represents for Maisky and his long-time musical partner Pavel Gililov the fruits to years of music-making. Strauss’s Cello Sonata, written by the composer at the tender age of 19, does not have the uniformity or a clear sense of character that Strauss later developed in his Violin Sonata five years later. Notwithstanding, Maisky and Gililov manage to turn the piece positively into a thrilling performance, intelligently interwoven with their commanding dialogues. Their commitment and vivaciousness in the outer Allegro movements and the poignant lyricism in the Andante slow movement can be viewed as clarity and fire in a nutshell. In the Romance in F Major, which is heard here in its transcribed version for the cello and piano, it is more than simply package filler. Listen to how Maisky weaves the opening melody with his soaring tone under the magical spell of his 18th century Montagnana cello. The partners then tease phrases back and forth, with an illuminating intensity surrounding imagination and poetry. The opening music serves to frame the later more dramatic central section, where at the end, they bring alive this work with a breath of freshness and charm.

     From the Romance in F Major, Maisky and Gililov turn pages to five years later with the Sonatina in G Major by Dvořák. One is immediately encapsulated to the throes of two kindred spirits. As Potter elaborates in his notes, the Sonatina was in fact conceived as a vehicle for the composer’s children Otilka and Tonik to play. Keeping this in mind, the pentatonic scales and ferocious rhythms underscore a highly melodious and folk-centric composition, whose Larghetto second movement is believed to be inspired by a visit to the Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis. In the rasping Scherzo third movement, Maisky and Gililov reminisce the years of innocent childhood with a rasping reading in good spirits. The finale Allegro movement could easily be disguised as a Copland “hoedown.” The cello arrangement of the fourth Romantic Pieces from Opus 75 remains a challenge to appreciate with those double-stopped passages played on the cello (which is a bowing technique one might instinctively associate with the violin). The Rondo in G Minor shows the comical aspects of Maisky, as he enjoys with this little gem.

     The final three and a half minutes returns back to the titular piece of this album, Richard Strauss’s Morgen, which is originally written as one of the four Lieder (Op.27) the composer wrote for his wife Pauline as a wedding present. The version heard here is one arranged by Maisky himself for piano and cello. Although there is no accompanying text, the cellist has the masterly craft of narration, simply by using the original melody to reiterate a “poem without words.” It is a memento of love and respect. Strauss’s “Morgen” makes an exquisite conclusion, as if everything before in the past seventy-minutes is merely an extension of the lengthy opening cello voice.
By: Patrick P.L. Lam

Homepage: Mischa Maisky
Homepage: Deutsche Grammophon Records

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