Much noisy and silly ado has been made of the title of this album (Splendors of the 20th Century), to the exclusion sometimes of the value of the music itself!! After all, music is subjective, and what may be splendid to some may not be splendid to others. Then there is the other part of the context: the Twentieth Century. Yes, all the music was indeed written in the Twentieth Century, so why not stop beating this dead horse?
The music itself is largely unknown, which does not detract from its value either. But perhaps some reviewers in high places can only tolerate music that has been officicially sanctioned as by an officially sanctioned composer. Their loss. The music on this disc is all of distinction, and certainly reveals wildly different idioms. The Thuille remains an iconic piece, despite having fallen into near obscurity. Its haunting harmonies, perhaps an extension of the thoughts and directions that Cesar Franck has lead us to does not in any way negate its power today. The fact that it dates from 1902 does not make it Nineteenth Century music. So if any listener deems it splendid (and it is by any normally defining musical terminology), and it belongs to the Twentieth century, then how is the title of the album inappropriate?!
Salone's Sonata is extremely interesting, even if it shows the composer in his early and formative years. While evoking certain others' musical influences at times, it nevertheless comes across as a telling, original voice in a sea of sameness. Certainly the cello repertoire has little of its ilk, and it should be seen as welcome indeed instead of dismissed as a student work. Meanwhiule, the level of virtuosity required to play it is far from student level! Full of quirky inventiveness, haunting moods and vistas of all kinds, this sonata is a testament to a growing musical force, and would be significant if a product of mature years.
The Hindemirth pieces are a delightful sweetner to round out the album. Extremely charming, they entrance the listener with their apparent, but not not actual, simplicity. The appealing conclusion of the finale is quintessential Hindemith.
Both performers, Antony Cooke and Armin Watkins are stellar here. The sound is crisp, resonant and well defined, and their technical and musical grasp thrilling. The poetry in their phrasing is exquisite, and the effect of years of collaboration clearly apparent. Cooke's techinque in the Salonen is stunning. Watkins plays with a depth of sound that is nothing short of masterful. Together, they have produced readings of these pieces that will be hard to better, and as such, will probably be the benchmarks - if only some short-sighted and narrow-minded people could stop talking about the title of the album!
Submitted on 04/20/10 by Peter Ripley